Another congressional push to get feds back in the office faster

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  • A group of Senate Republicans is joining in the calls for federal employees to return to their offices. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) is the lead sponsor of the Having Employees Return to Duty (HERD) Act. The bill requires federal employees resume their pre-pandemic telework and working schedules. It applies to all federal employees except those at the Defense Department. Employees would have to return to the office within 60 days of the bill’s passage. Lummis says she hears complaints from constituents struggling to access in-person service from the Social Security Administration and other agencies.
  • One federal employee union is suing the Biden administration over the vaccine mandate. The lawsuit comes from the American Federation of Government Employees council representing workers at the Bureau of Prisons. The union argues the vaccine mandate deprives their members of due process rights under the 14th amendment. It made a variety of other constitutional arguments. The union asked a federal judge in the southern Florida district for injunctive relief from the mandate. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of the Air Force’s deadline for active duty troops to get vaccinated has officially passed and few service members are refusing the shot. Only 800 active duty members of the Air and Space Forces flat out refused to get the coronavirus vaccine. That’s out of 326,000 people and makes up about zero point two percent of the active force. Those service members will likely face punishment or termination. There are still about 10,000 airmen and guardians who are not vaccinated. About 5,000 are requesting religious exemptions, which will be processed in the next 30 days. The rest are late to get their shots or have been granted medical or administrative passes. The deadline for airmen and guardians to get the shot was Nov. 2. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of New Mexico are teaming up to establish a center for directed energy studies. The center is mandated by Congress. The new organization will develop lasers and high-power electromagnets. It will employ senior researchers, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students to advance modeling, design and creation of the systems. The center is expected to be operational by 2025.
  • The Marine Corps has a new plan for how to attract and retain service members over the next decade. The new talent management strategy looks to better align its recruitment plans with the skills it’ll need between now and 2030. One new feature is a “marketplace” that’s meant to give Marines more input into how their careers will be designed. Officials say they’ll also adopt more digital tools to make the Corps’ talent management system more efficient.
  • The White House made a new hire to further equity in government services through data. The Office of Science and Technology Policy hired Denice Ross, a longtime expert on public data, as the U.S. Chief Data Scientist. Ross served on the Commerce Department review team as part of the Biden transition, and served as a senior adviser at the Office of Management and Budget during the Biden administration. Ross says her priorities as U.S. Chief Data Scientist includes using data to empower equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Federal managers are using data and evidence to make decisions now more than ever. In a survey of more than 4,000 federal managers, the Government Accountability Office finds agencies are using performance information to the greatest extent since GAO started tracking these survey results. The Evidence Act and a 2010 update to the Government Performance and Results Act requires agencies to develop and use performance data to shape decision-making.
  • All 16 of the pre-award protests of the Department of Homeland Security’s FirstSource III solicitation are completed. And DHS has either won them all or they’ve been withdrawn by the vendor. The latest decision and last two before the Government Accountability Office came out yesterday with GAO ruling in favor of DHS. Two vendors, DBISP and Federal Merchants Corporation, protested being disqualified from competition for not having specific certifications. Instead the companies argue DHS should have referred the matter to the SBA for a certificate of competency assessment.
  • Agencies have some new deadlines for patching critical cybersecurity flaws. A new binding operational directive gives agencies two weeks to make sure they’ve patched 90 high-profile cyber vulnerabilities identified so far this year. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency also set a six-month deadline for patching about 200 vulnerabilities that were flagged between 2017 and 2020. CISA published the full list of identified vulnerabilities on its website. The agency is planning to continuously update the list and set aggressive timelines for agencies to patch future vulnerabilities as well. (Federal News Network)
  • The Senate is moving legislation to boost the National Cyber Director’s hiring authorities. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the Defense of U.S. Infrastructure Act of 2021 this week. The bill would give National Cyber Director Chris Inglis the ability to hire more staff and establish a talent exchange program with the private sector. The legislation would also set a five-year term for the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is one step closer to getting a permanent CIO. One of the last politically appointed chief information officer positions is finally being filled. President Joe Biden says he plans to nominate Kurt DelBene to be the assistant secretary for information and technology and CIO at the VA. If the Senate confirms him, DelBene would replace Jim Grferer who left in January. DelBene has spent most of his career in the private sector, working for Microsoft and McKinsey and Company. He did have a short stint in the government, as part of the swat team that fixed healthcare.gov in 2014.
  • Time is running out for the chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors. Ron Bloom, a Democrat appointed by former President Donald Trump, has little more than a month until his tenure expires. But Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is telling President Joe Biden to replace Bloom, rather than nominate him for a full term. Baldwin cites Bloom’s support of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and persistent mail delays as reasons for her request.
  • The president’s three nominees for key roles at the Federal Labor Relations Authority cleared their first hurdle. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the nominations for Ernest DuBester and Susan Tsui Grundmann to be FLRA members. It also advanced Kurt Rumsfeld’s nomination to be FLRA general counsel. The authority hasn’t had a general counsel for over four years.

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