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The two-year probationary is on its way out for civilian employees at the Defense Department. 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. But House and Senate leaders agreed to repeal it through the 2022 annual defense policy bill. That’s just a few years after Congress mandated a study of the two-year probationary period at the Pentagon.
Another legal setback for the Biden Administration’s effort to get federal contractors vaccinated. A federal court in Georgia issued a nationwide injunction yesterday, blocking the government from enforcing the contractor mandate anywhere in the United States. The court found the president never had the legal authority to issue the mandate in the first place. A Kentucky judge issued a similar ruling last week, but that injunction only affected a handful of states. (Federal News Network)
The State Department’s watchdog links IT staffing to repeated delays in technology modernization. More than a decade into plans to modernize and consolidate 90 legacy systems, the department’s Office of Consular Systems and Technology (CST) has only conducted one pilot of a single system component and missed several deployment dates for other systems. The State Department’s IG office finds the vacancy rate in the IT office over the past seven years was at least 28%. The department’s chief information officer said staffing definitely played a role in the delays. More than 40% of CST employees who took last year’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey said their office didn’t take appropriates steps to deal with poor performers.
How many programs does the federal government have? It’s a tough question, but the Office of Management and Budget is getting some answers. OMB launched a pilot in the final months of the Trump administration to assemble an inventory of all federal programs. Agencies submitted data for more than 800 programs but that’s just scratching the surface. OMB estimates that there are at least 5,000 programs. The 2010 Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act requires OMB to develop a single website with an inventory of all federal programs, but that goal has not yet been achieved. The Chief Financial Officers Council gave OMB $500,000 to develop systems as part of this effort.
The House and Senate come to a compromise on the year’s biggest defense policy bill. Congress plans to authorize $777 billion for the military in 2022. The request exceeds the White House’s request by about $25 billion. The defense authorization bill also gives service members a 2.7% pay increase. The final version of the legislation may run into some opposition during the final vote. Conferees watered down a provision that moved the prosecution of serious crimes out of the chain of command. That part of the bill had the support of a supermajority in the Senate and 220 House lawmakers.
Cyber incident reporting won’t make it into this year’s defense bill. The compromise NDAA released yesterday leaves cyber incident reporting requirements on the cutting room floor. The House had passed legislation that would have required critical infrastructure operators to report cyber attacks to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. But the Senate failed to come to an agreement on its own version of the bill. Democrats blamed Senate Republican leaders for not prioritizing the issue during negotiations. Nevertheless, lawmakers pledged to continue attempts to include the incident reporting mandates in future legislation. (Federal News Network)
The Air Force Research Lab put a new satellite into orbit that will evaluate commercial-off-the-shelf technologies in near-earth space environments. The CubeSat is the first of several cheaper experiments the lab is sending into space to lay the groundwork for small satellites in geosynchronous space areas. Ultimately, the lab wants to create a spacecraft that can survive in those lower space environments and facilitate future prototypes.
FEMA is planning to take control of its supply chain from the cloud. A 2006 law directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to improve how it manages its supply chain. FEMA is finally trying to meet the requirements laid out in the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act through a cloud service. FEMA released a request for information seeking industry feedback on the availability of end-to-end supply chain visibility services. The agency said it wants capabilities that include purchasing and ordering, order fulfillment, warehouse management, inventory management, transportation management and the ability to track and report the location of assets and commodities in real time. Industry has 47 questions to answer about their capabilities. Responses to the RFI are due by March 2.
The Department of Homeland Security’s leadership ranks are slowly filling out. Yesterday, the Senate voted 50-47 to confirm Chris Magnus as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Magnus is currently the police chief of Tucson, Arizona. The Senate also confirmed Erik Hooks to be deputy administrator of FEMA. He was previously the head of North Carolina’s public safety program. The Senate has now confirmed nine of the Biden administration’s DHS nominees. Four more Homeland Security picks are awaiting action in the Senate.
Jessica Rosenworcel is the first woman to be the chairperson of the Federal Communications Commission. The Senate confirmed Rosenworcel on Monday. She has served as an FCC commissioner since 2012 and was interim chairwoman since January. Rosenworcel replaces Ajit Pai, who left in January after four years as the chairman. She takes over the FCC during a time of growth, The Biden administration wants to increase the commission’s budget by 14% in fiscal 2022 as it continues to play an important role in ensuring access to broadband during the pandemic.
President Biden picked over 200 top career executives for the civil service’s highest honor. Winners of the 2021 Presidential Rank Awards include 230 members of the Senior Executive Service. The awards go out to a small percentage of top-performing career executives each year. Winners receive cash bonuses worth 20-35% of their salaries. This year’s winners come from 37 different agencies. One executive created TSA Pre-Check, another uncovered billions of dollars in health care fraud. The Biden administration reinstated the awards after the previous one canceled them due to the pandemic. (Federal News Network)