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As the omicron variant continues to spread, the Pentagon is taking new precautions. The Pentagon Reservation is extending its maximum telework policy until the end of January 2022. That’s as the United States nears record cases of COVID-19 nationwide. The Pentagon will continue limiting official visits to the building to only those that are mission critical. Unofficial visitors will not be permitted in the building. The Pentagon Reservation will also extend its policy of keeping occupancy at 40% capacity. The Defense Department as a whole is encouraging employees to get the booster shot as soon as possible and to test for COVID if returning to the office after the holidays. (Federal News Network)
The impact of the omicron variant is being felt by the Navy. Two ships have seen major outbreaks, but no serious illnesses. About a quarter of the crew on the USS Milwaukee has tested positive for the virus in recent days. The costal-water combat ship is staying put at Guantanamo Bay because of the outbreak. The destroyer USS Hallsey, meanwhile, is delaying a move from Hawaii to San Diego. That ship reported that about a third of its crew tested positive, but most had only mild symptoms or none at all. (AP-Federal News Network)
A new bill in Congress would require the Defense Department to consider the national security implications of climate change. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) introduced the Climate Readiness Act, which would have DoD submit a report to Congress illustrating how climate change will impact the armed forces. The bill would require DoD to show how climate change might worsen current global conflicts, as well as how DoD might respond to them.
The Postal Service is telling its employees to think twice before posting about work online. USPS is reminding employees and contractors to avoid speaking on behalf of the agency through social media unless authorized to do so. USPS said its policy doesn’t prevent employees from having a social media presence, but directs employees to note that they don’t speak for the agency. USPS policy requires employees to have written permission from its social media and legal teams before representing the agency in an official capacity online. USPS warns violating the policy could result in firing or other punitive measures.
Law enforcement officers for Immigration and Customs Enforement will begin to wear body cameras as part of a new program. Homeland Security Investigations special agents in New York City, Newark and Houston, are the first to be required to use body-worn cameras for pre-planned operations. Enforcement and Removal Operations personnel will also begin to wear the cameras at a later date. Everyone participating in the program will receive training on how to use the devices and upload their data.
The agency that oversees Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is addressing holes in its personnel suitability and national security processes. The State Department Inspector General, in a heavily redacted report released Monday, said the U.S. Agency for Global Media was accused earlier this year by its former CEO Michael Pack of granting invalid access and security clearances to personnel. The IG said the Agency has made improvements in these areas since 2018. Its workforce is largely comprised of journalists who do not have access to classified information.
They don’t like everything in it, but this group goes along with most of what’s in the freshly signed National Defense Authorization Act. The bill, signed Monday by President Joe Biden, gets the qualified endorsement of the Federal Managers Association. The group, which represents mid-level supervisory federal employees, said it supports the bill overall. But FMA president Craig Carter said the association doesn’t like that it cuts from two years to one year the probationary period for new Defense Department civilian employees. A study of the one-year policy has not yet made it to Congress.
The Patent and Trademark Office is set to begin modernizing the end-to-end trademark process. Under an $87 million contract with Accenture Federal Services, USPTO plans to apply the DevSecOps process to everything from filing to registration, including attorney examination and adjudication. Commissioner for Trademarks David Gooder said in August that among the first modernization efforts will be to apply automation to areas that cause small pain points. Over the last year, PTO has seen the number of trademark applications sky rocket to over a million in 2021. PTO made the seven-year award to Accenture Federal under GSA’s Alliant 2 governmentwide acquisition contract.
The Department of Homeland Security has one year to produce a report on critical supply chain vulnerabilities. A new provision in law authorizes DHS to conduct research into supply chain vulnerabilities that threaten critical infrastructure and economic security. The legislation was included in the defense authorization bill signed by President Biden this week. It requires DHS to identify critical domains and evaluate how their disruption would pose a threat to homeland security. Lawmakers remain concerned about shortages of critical supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. An initial DHS report is due to lawmakers next December.
The Defense Department may be missing tens of thousands of cases of hazing in its reporting. A new Government Accountability Office report finds that the Pentagon has only been tracking formal hazing complaints. That means that many unofficial concerns are not recorded. Additionally, GAO said the National Guard does not have the proper channels for collecting hazing information. (Federal News Network)
The Western Hemisphere’s most advanced weather observing and environmental monitoring system launches in two months. The satellite is managed by NOAA and NASA. It’s called GOES-T for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites and will provide critical data for the West Coast, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America and the Pacific Ocean. The satellite is part of the GOES-R Series of satellites to create advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements, real-time mapping of lightning activity and to monitor space weather.
Immigration and Custom Enforcement is readying a new cloud competition for early 2022. ICE plans to release a solicitation for a “Cloud Infrastructure Hosting” contract by the end of January. An acquisition forecast published by Homeland Security shows the contract will be worth more than $100 million. ICE is looking for FEDRamp-approved offerings, but the agency will consider services that don’t have FEDRamp approval at the discretion of the ICE chief information security officer.
The work of agency chief evaluation officers lines up with many of the Biden administration’s management goals. But a majority of these officials tell the Data Foundation and the American Evaluation Association they’re understaffed and under-resourced. Three-quarters of chief evaluation officers in a recent survey said they have an office of five or fewer personnel. Half of respondents said they have an annual budget of a $1 million or less. Only a small share of evaluation offices said they have more than 25 people on staff or a budget of more than $25 million.