Some federal employees still stuck in Afghanistan

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  • Over 30 Senators are pushing the Department of Veterans Affairs to step up its outreach efforts to the 2 million people who served in the Global War on Terror. VA recently sent out links to its mental health programs and encouraged veterans to seek them out. But senators said it’s not enough. Veterans between 18 and 34 years old have some of the highest suicide rates among other former servicemembers. Senators said VA should be more proactive about connecting veterans who served in Afghanistan to the department’s benefits and services.
  • The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan leaves some federal employees behind. House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said more than 500 journalists employed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media and their families remain in Afghanistan, following the U.S. withdrawal. McCaul said 50 agency staffers so far have been evacuated. McCaul said he’s calling on President Joe Biden and the State Department to come up with a plan to get these individuals out of the country as soon as possible.
  • The Army and Marine Corps would launch a pilot program to improve the safety of tactical vehicles, if a House bill becomes law. The bill from Congressmen Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) would require the services to install black-box data recorders in vehicles to prevent and review rollover accidents. The bill is named after Marine first lieutenant Hugh Conor McDowell, who died in a 2019 training accident. The Government Accountability Office finds 123 soldiers and marines died in tactical vehicle accidents between 2010 and 2019.
  • The probationary period for Defense Department employees is up for debate, again. The House Armed Services Committee wants to reinstate a one-year probationary period for defense civilian employees. It usually serves as a trial for new hires to ensure they’re a good fit for the job. DoD employees currently earn full federal job protections after completing a two-year trial period. Now the House committee wants to include probationary period changes in the 2022 defense authorization bill. The committee will debate the bill and consider amendments today.
  • U.S. bases in Europe are no longer allowed to use energy from Russia. A final rule from the Defense Acquisition Regulations System this week implements a provision in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which bars acquisition contracts for energy sourced from inside Russia. The move is to promote energy security within Europe. Waivers are available when necessary however.
  • Companies have until Oct. 1 to submit proposals to help build a new mesh satellite communications network for the Defense Department. The Space Development Agency said it expects to make multiple awards to help build the “Tranche One” transport layer of the National Defense Space Architecture. The initial network is envisioned as hundreds of interconnected small satellites providing low-latency, high-volume communications. SDA said the network will serve as the “backbone” for the Pentagon’s new Joint All Domain Command-and-Control concept.
  • The Defense Health Agency just put out a contract potentially worth billions for managing its IT transformation. Perspecta beat out six other competitors to win DHA’s Military Health System Enterprise IT Services Integrator contract. The potential 10-year deal has a $2 billion order ceiling. Perspecta and its partner Capgemini Government Solutions are on contract to manage a multi-source approach to DHA’s IT transformation. The agency said the program will consolidate services and reduce costs. The work includes transitioning existing contracts, like the DHA Global Service Center service desk. The initial term of the deal lasts a year, with nine one-year follow-on options.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is turning to a familiar IT modernization playbook. OPM Chief Information Officer Guy Cavallo said he’s offering more training and reskilling opportunities for OPM IT employees. The agency is reimbursing IT employees who complete and pass cloud certification exams. Cavallo also hopes to take advantage of the technology modernization fund and a potential IT working capital fund to pay for more modernization efforts. He said he issued two TMF proposals to help OPM adopt more cloud and zero trust solutions. (Federal News Network)
  • Two CIOs are on the move to new jobs. Dominic Cussatt is the new chief information officer at the State Department’s Intelligence and Research Bureau. Bob Costello is coming back to government to take over as the CIO of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Homeland Security Department. These are just two of the latest changes in the federal technology community. Cussatt joins State from the Department of Veterans Affairs where he has been acting CIO since January and worked at VA since 2016. Costello rejoins DHS after a short stint in industry. He worked at Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement previously. (Federal News Network)
  • With an estimated improper payment rate of 10%, the Labor Department is bringing renewed focus to its oversight of unemployment insurance. Labor created the Office of Unemployment Insurance Modernization to lead the department’s effort to work with state agencies and federal partners to modernize and reform the unemployment insurance system. Yvette Meftah will be the director of the new unit’s UI modernization efforts. She will work closely with Labor’s office of the CIO, the Employment and Training Administration and the assistant secretary for management and administration to carry out a four-pronged approach to improving these processes.

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