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The Pentagon is spelling out what will happen to civilian employees who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The Defense Department said it will fire its nonmilitary employees who have not gotten fully vaccinated by Nov. 22. The order also applies to defense contractors and even to civilian employees who work remotely. DoD said it will give its workers two progressive enforcement actions before dismissing them. Employees will get a five-day period of counseling and education as a first punitive action. The next step is being suspended without pay for 14 days or less. If those actions don’t spur change, DoD said it will then terminate the unvaccinated employee.
More Veterans Health Administration employees are requesting exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate than they did for last year’s flu vaccine mandate. VA said it’s still collecting data from its employees about their plans to comply with the department’s vaccine mandate. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the department won’t question the legitimacy of employees’ medical or religious exception requests but if too many employees file too many requests, VA may have to make some tough choices. McDonough said VHA must have enough vaccinated employees available to provide health care. (Federal News Network)
The National Archives and Records Administration’s inspector general is feeling the heat over the agency’s veteran records requests backlog. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers have sent a letter to IG Brett Baker urging his office to look into how the agency can reduce the number of pending veteran records requests at the National Personnel Records Center. Veterans require the records stored at NPRC to apply for a wide range of benefits. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the backlog has grown to over 550,000.
One agency plans to implement OPM’s locality pay guidance for remote workers. Employees of the General Services Administration who are full-time remote workers and choose to move to a area with a lower locality pay rate should plan for a pay cut. Traci DiMarinti, GSA’s chief human capital officer, said employees will be paid based on where they live, not based on where their home agency is located. OPM issued guidance in June outlining several considerations for remote workers, including how to determine locality pay. GSA is putting all of its occupations in one of three buckets, and those who land in the opportunity for full-time remote work will have to consider the potential impact of losing some locality pay should they choose to liveelsewhere. (Federal News Network)
The White House wants agencies to do more to educate federal employees about their union rights. The Office of Personnel Management has new guidance urging agencies to make this information available to prospective employees, new hires and current federal workers. OPM said many federal employees don’t know they’re part of a bargaining unit. The White House estimates over 800,000 employees could be dues-paying members but aren’t. OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said, “We want to ensure that job applicants and new employees receive this information about their unions and their rights on day one.”
The new director of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command said his organization has started the process of fixing widespread staffing shortfalls. Gregory Ford said CID is hiring 90 new criminal investigators, starting at Fort Hood, Fort Bragg and Fort Carson. Ford became CID’s first civilian director earlier this year. That’s one of several reforms the Army initiated after a review found the command was understaffed and badly organized. (Federal News Network)
The Navy said it has set up a “Learning to Action Board” to implement the recommendations of a review board that looked into the destruction of the USS Bonhomme Richard. That’s the amphibious carrier that was destroyed by arson while it was docked in San Diego for maintenance last year. Officials said one of the key conclusions was that even though sailors are well-prepared to fight fires while their ships are underway, that’s not the case while they’re in port for maintenance, when crew levels are much lower. (Federal News Network)
The Air Force software workshop Kessel Run and Air Combat Command are entering into an agreement to improve the command’s coding. The signing of the document formalizes a relationship between the two organizations. ACC wants to use Kessel Run’s expertise to improve the acquisition process and find ways to save money throughout the command using things like automation and machine learning.
The Army’s Redstone Arsenal has a new tenant. The FBI moved into the Huntsville, Alabama Army site, now home to the bureau’s Weapons Management Facility. The FBI moved the facility from Quantico, Virginia, and the ribbon cutting ceremony took place yesterday. The Weapons Management Facility houses and maintains FBI guns, ammunition and protective gear. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Drug Enforcement Administration joined in the festivities.
It’s time for the State Department to rev up its passport processing machine. Three senators wrote to Secretary Antony Blinken asking for the agency to bring the Hand Carry program back to pre-pandemic levels. The Hand Carry program is for expedited passport processing. The lawmakers said it’s currently at 24% capacity. The current average processing time for a new passport or to renew one is 18 weeks, up from 4-6 weeks pre-pandemic. Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla), Jacklyn Rosen (D-Nev.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said with an expected increase of 10 million passport applications this year, State should fully staff the Hand Carry program to help with the expected rush.
Republican lawmakers are pushing back on new cybersecurity requirements for the transportation sector. GOP members of the Senate Commerce Committee told the Transportation Security Administration the new cyber reporting requirements are too burdensome for industries like rail transit and aviation. They urged TSA to take a more collaborative approach in setting cyber standards for critical infrastructure companies. TSA began issuing the emergency cyber requirements in the wake of May’s ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline.
A new cyber talent management system is set to take off next month. With the U.S. facing a cyber workforce shortage and digital attacks on the rise, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is looking forward toward a more flexible recruiting and retention system that goes live next month. The Cyber Talent Management System will start out with about 150 positions in November. It gives Department of Homeland Security agencies like CISA more flexibility to hire for specific cyber skills and set salary levels. The DHS program is some seven years in the making, as Congress passed the law authorizing the talent management system in 2014. (Federal News Network)