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The Office of Personnel Management is reminding agencies of flexibilities they can use to help their employees during the Hurricane Ida aftermath. Agencies have the discretion to issue evacuation payments and travel subsidies to employees should they need to relocate for work. Telework and weather and safety leave are options too. Agencies should contact OPM if they have employees who might benefit from an emergency leave transfer program. Those programs allow employees to donate excess annual leave to their colleagues impacted by a major disaster.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is seeing an uptick in employee vaccinations. VA said it administered at least one dose among 9,000 additional employees in the month since the department announced a vaccine mandate for health care workers. It hasn’t started administering booster shots to the workforce. Health care employees have until October 8 to get vaccinated and show proof or request a medical or religious accommodation. Those who don’t comply may be subject to discipline, but not until after the October deadline. (Federal News Network)
The Biden administration is launching a new website to showcase the work of chief evaluation officers. Evaluation.gov also serves as a one-stop-shop for agencies to chart progress in meeting the goals of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. Agencies will post final versions of their learning agendas, annual evaluation plans and capacity assessments on the site in February 2022. The Office of Management and Budget is directing agencies to submit draft versions of those documents later this month, as part of budget planning for fiscal 2023. (Federal News Network)
An IRS watchdog warns her office is getting inundated with calls for help. National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins said her office is running into many of the same challenges as the IRS: processing delays and a low level of service. She said taxpayers are waiting an average 80 minutes to get through to her office, and is receiving more than 20,000 calls as week. Collins said her office expects to receive more than a quarter million cases this year. That’s a 50% increase over the past five years.
The National Security Agency is turning to Hewlett Packard Enterprise to help the cryptographic agency with its AI and data needs. The NSA awarded Hewlett Packard a 10-year, $2 billion contract for high performance computing technology as a service. The company said its “Greenlake” platform will provide the NSA with fully managed, on-premise cloud services to meet the agency’s data management requirements. The service is expected to put it into use starting in 2022. NSA officials have previously said artificial intelligence is the “next frontier” for cybersecurity.
One agency is testing the idea of not having cars at their executives’ beck and call. What would happen if political appointees didn’t have a car service waiting in the parking lot for their next trip, but they had to call a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft? That is exactly what the Department of Health and Human Services is trying to see in Baltimore. Instead of having drivers on call from 7 am to 7 pm, HHS is asking political appointees to use the ridesharing contract that GSA set up last year. HHS wants to see whether this approach would work, what costs savings are possible and whether the benefits are good enough to replace more expensive contracts with car services.
The first set of federal law enforcement officers are attaching body cameras to their uniforms. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the Phoenix and Detroit field Divisions began using body-worn cameras yesterday. Over the course of the next several weeks, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service will begin the first phase of this program. The Justice Department said its plans include a phased implementation of body-worn cameras, and hopes that Congress will provide funding to equip agents nationwide.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee will consider a multi-billion-dollar budget reconciliation initiative today. Over $7 billion would go to the General Services Administration and the Postal Service to buy electric cars. USPS would get an extra $10 million to make capital improvements at postal facilities. The National Archives and Records Administration would get $50 million to address the backlog of pending records requests. And the Government Accountability Office would get nearly $16 million to step up oversight activities.
Lawmakers took another step toward approving a defense budget increase. The House Armed Services Committee voted 42-17 to increase the 2022 national defense budget authorization by $25 billion above President Biden’s request, with the increased funds pegged for the military’s unfunded requirements, as well as congressional special interest items. Several Democrats joined with the committee’s Republicans to vote through the amendment to the 2022 defense authorization bill. While lawmakers still have to hash out an appropriations deal, the House committee’s endorsement of a $778 billion national defense budget is in line with the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the bill.
A proposed addition to the annual defense authorization bill would make it harder for retired generals to transition to defense secretary. Navy Times reports members of the House Armed Services Committee support a proposal from Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), which says officer would need to be retired for ten years, or a waiver would require three-fourths vote in both chambers.