New federal website going up for those looking for COVID-19 tests

In today's Federal Newscast, the Biden administration will roll out a new federal website in response to the omicron variant.

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  • The Biden administration launched the first of its kind learning agenda for its management priorities. And it’s collecting feedback from the public, federal employees and state, local and tribal governments about the agenda. It outlines broad research questions for the three priorities under the President’s Management Agenda. The Biden administration is interested in ideas on reducing administrative burden, measuring public trust and using the right hiring assessments to screen for top talent. Members of the public have until January 31st to submit feedback through (Federal News Network)
  • The White House will also roll out a new federal website in response to the omicron variant. The site will let the public sign up to get one of the half-billion rapid COVID-19 tests that the Biden administration is buying. But will the site be able to stand up to a large number of visitors? “Yes, that is our expectation, and we are preparing for that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “We will have more information as it is available, including what the website looks like. We will make the website available as soon as these tests are available. They will start to be available in January.”
  • Agencies have some new advice for their next human capital operating plans. The plans are supposed to help agencies align their workforce requirements with their strategic goals and mission activities. Agencies have to submit new human capital plans once every four years. The Office of Personnel Management said these plans are especially important now considering how quickly the federal workforce is evolving. It issued new guidance with advice for creating the next one. New plans are due to OPM for review by June.
  • They might be painted any color, but new federal buses will all be green. Ten new models of electric transit buses will be available for agencies to buy or lease, under the General Services Administration’s Auto Choice program. The buses, which seat up to 46 people, will run either on batteries or hydrogen fuel cells, a first for the federal bus fleet. GSA awarded contracts for the ten models to five companies. Three of them are small businesses.
  • Starting Thursday, members of the armed forces and their families will be able to renew their passports online without having to mail in supporting documentation. Service members must first preregister online to access the online portal. No international travel can be made within three weeks of the date of renewal and applicants must live in the United States.
  • The Defense Department recently put out new rules on extremist activity in the military, but at least one lawmaker thinks it doesn’t go far enough. The Pentagon’s clarified policy for service members bans the liking and reposting of extremist material on social media. However, the policy and accompanying report don’t address how the Defense Department can better keep track of the number of extremists in the ranks, according to Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.). Brown said understanding the issue through data collection and then addressing it through training is a key part of solving the problem of racism and violent behavior in the military. Brown put forth legislation to better that data, but it did not make it into law this year. (Federal News Network)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will start wearing body cameras under a new pilot program. The pilot will start with Homeland Security Investigations special agents and then move to Enforcement and Removal Operations officers. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the body-worn camera program shows transparency and accountability are essential components for the department’s law enforcement. The House appropriations committee directed ICE to design the pilot program as part of last year’s Homeland Security spending bill.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency expects another busy holiday season for cyber threats. CISA officials held another call with critical infrastructure operators on Monday. The agency said nearly 5,000 people dialed in. CISA Director Jen Easterly urged them to be vigilant against cyber threats in the coming days. Executive Assistant Director Eric Goldstein also provided attendees with an update on CISA’s response to the Log4j vulnerability. Last week, CISA directed federal agencies to immediately identify and patch any Internet-facing systems. Goldstein urged private sector entities to review the directive and take similar actions to protect themselves.

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