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Top Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee have more questions about the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal employees. Committee Ranking Member James Comer (Ky.) said he’s concerned about the number of employees who may be subject to disciplinary action for refusing to comply with the mandate. And he’s looking for more details on how agencies will handle medical and religious accommodations. He wants the administration to share data on the number of federal employees who are fully vaccinated, and those who aren’t.
The government can more easily prosecute those who commit crimes against federal employees stationed overseas. That’s thanks to a new bill Congress passed yesterday, which ensures the Justice Department can prosecute those who harm federal employees working outside the United States. The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act easily cleared the House and Senate and has broad bipartisan support. It’s named after two Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents attacked in Mexico back in 2011. The courts overturned the convictions for their attackers over jurisdictional questions.
Top intelligence community officials said they’re doing a decent job recruiting and hiring a diverse workforce. But they still have a long way to go. Minorities make up 27% of the intelligence community workforce. But just 15% of the Senior Executive Service. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said the trends are, “suggesting better success at recruiting than retaining and promoting. And yet even so when you look at the recruiting, you consistently see a gap between recruiting and hiring minorities.” (Federal News Network)
The Biden administration’s push for diversity and inclusion notches up at the Commerce Department. A several-year-old committee headed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been exploring why more women and minorities don’t have patents, and how to fix it. Now Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will chair the committee. She’s rebadged it as the National Council for Expanding American Innovation. It met yesterday afternoon, and discussed seeding the patent application ecosystem among the under-represented with an emphasis on science and technology education.
Former federal CIO and Energy and Department of Homeland Security CIO Karen Evans has a new job. Evans is the new managing director of the Cyber Readiness Institute. CRI is a non-profit initiative that convenes business leaders from across sectors to share resources and knowledge to help develop free cybersecurity tools for small and medium-sized businesses. As managing director, Evans will oversee the continued development of cybersecurity tools and training to deal with the ever-changing threat landscape.
Comptroller General Gene Dodaro will mark 50 years at GAO next year and he’s got big plans to fix federal management. He met recently with OMB deputy director for management Jason Miller about GAO’s high risk list. He said his goal is to reduce the number of high risk programs, some of which have been a concern for 30 years. “I’ve met with the top leaders of all the executive branch agencies and some of the independent regulatory agencies that have had changes and elicit their commitment to address the high risk areas that they have responsibility for.” During Dodaro’s 11-year tenure as comptroller general, GAO has removed nine areas off the high risk list.
The State Department highlighted workforce retention goals as part of its “historic” modernization strategy. The department is focused on recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, and addressing common challenges that have caused some employees to leave mid-career. Common challenges include Foreign Service family members finding jobs overseas, the toll put on staff at hardship posts, a narrow pipeline for promotions, and employees’ fears of discrimination in a foreign post over their race, gender or sexual orientation. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the department will keep telework in place even after the pandemic. (Federal News Network)
The head of the Justice Department high riis backing cyber incident reporting legislation. Attorney General Merrick Garland said he supports requiring that companies report significant incidents to the government. Garland said mandatory incident reporting would help the government pursue hackers. Legislation is moving in both chambers of Congress that would position the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as the hub of incident reporting. Most of the reporting requirements are aimed at critical infrastructure operators and ransomware victims.
A new Federal Acquisition Regulation could help simplify complex information protection requirements for contractors. The government is expected to publish an updated rule on controlled unclassified information in November. There are currently more than 100 categories of CUI managed by the government, ranging from nuclear security manuals to information about farming operations. The National Archives and Records Administration is hoping the new rule will make it easier for agencies and industry to understand how to handle and protect the sensitive data.
Supervisors and managers at Postal Service processing plants are getting new tablet computers to track work as they move about workroom floors. USPS issued tablets to several plants last month in the first phase of the rollout. It expects to issue about 8,000 tablets by the final phase in September 2022. USPS is issuing these tablets as part of $40 billion in capital investments detailed in its 10-year reform plan.
A federal court gives the green light to a class action lawsuit that claims thousands of former Navy servicemembers are being illegally denied medical benefits. The lawsuit claims a Navy policy that was in effect between 2016 and 2018 took some, but not all service-connected disabilities into account when Navy officials decided whether a sailor should be medically retired or medically separated. The plaintiffs said even though the policy’s been rescinded, the Navy used it to improperly deny medical retirement benefits to thousands of former sailors. They’re seeking a court order that would force the Navy to redo its eligibility calculations for those sailors. The Navy estimates about 3,800 people were potentially affected by the policy, but plaintiffs’ attorneys believe there may be thousands more.
A former professor at the Air War College on Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama has plead guilty to lying to a federal agent. According to the Justice Department, Xiaoming Zhang, who began working at the school in 2003, would travel to China on a regular basis during his tenure. But in 2012 he began a relationship with a known official in the Chinese government. His security clearance required him to report it but he never did. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.