Service members who lose their job during deployment get more help in their corner

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  • Service members facing job loss after returning from deployment will see a renewed focus from two of its most staunch defenders. The Labor and Justice departments updated their memorandum of understanding for the first time since 2004 to do more to protect the employment rights of service members under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. The agreement details new investigative and referral protocols and procedures, updates information sharing protocols and procedures, and permits Labor to expedite the referral to DOJ when appropriate.
  • The Biden administration said major legislative reforms of the federal pay system should be on the table. That statement comes from the president’s pay agent. The pay agent consists of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja. They say the current methodology used to calculate federal locality pay ignores the fact that salaries might differ inside local labor markets for different occupations. They say the current locality system may severely underpay some mission-critical occupations while overpaying others.
  • User feedback is driving changes to federal spending transparency. The Treasury Department has taken specific steps to improve the user experience of the USASpending.gov portal. Treasury has added information on unreported data to the website. It created a data dictionary for USASpending.gov and it provided additional file formats for downloads. But the Government Accountability Office said while these steps are important, more can be done. In a new report looking at USASpending.gov, Data Lab websites and the PRAC.gov portal, GAO found there continues to be a lack of awareness of the sites and limitations to data availability and quality. Auditors made four recommendations to Treasury to continue to improve the spending data websites.
  • Interior’s Inspector General said a whistleblower retaliation claim against the National Park Service, by a non-federal employee, falls short on both facts and legal standing. The complainant claims NPS attempted to censor a report, then declined to fund a proposed task agreement, extend an internship, and accept a volunteer application that would have allowed the non-federal employee to keep working with the agency. But the IG said the complainant can’t claim whistleblower retaliation against the government under a statute in the 2013 NDAA. Rather, they could claim retaliation by their employer.
  • The Government Accountability Office found mixed progress from agencies making their data open to the public by default and taking inventory of the data sets they have. GAO said part of the problem is the Office of Management and Budget has not issued guidance to agencies on how to meet these goals under the OPEN Government Data Act. Despite this lack of guidance, four agencies GAO reviewed made progress with their data inventories. Those include AmeriCorps, Justice and State departments, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
  • Agencies are under an emergency order to address the “Log4j” cybersecurity vulnerability this week. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is ordering agencies to address any instances of Log4j in their networks by Dec. 23 at 5 p.m. Agencies have to apply available patches, use a recommended mitigation measure, or disconnect the system by that time. CISA says the emergency directive is necessary because the vulnerability poses an unacceptable risk to the federal enterprise. Log4j is logging tool used in numerous software applications. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force has a new chief information security officer. Aaron Bishop recently took over the Air Force CISO role. A Navy veteran, Bishop has held several positions in commercial industry, most recently at Science Applications International Corporation. Bishop is expected to help fine tune the Air Force’s authority to operate processes for software. Air Force Chief Information Officer Lauren Knausenberger said she wants to use more automation and penetration testing to secure networks and systems across traditional boundaries.
  • Congress punted the toughest budget debates until February. But they’re a top concern for the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the department may have trouble paying veterans benefits through 2022 under a full-year continuing resolution. VA and other agencies are operating under 2021 funds through Feb. 18. McDonough said a full year under those funds would leave VA with shortfalls in community care money. The department would also struggle to hire and train 2,000 new claims processors. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has a new permanent chief information officer. The Senate easily cleared Kurt DelBene’s nomination for the CIO job. It was one of the dozens of nominations the Senate advanced before leaving Capitol Hill for the holidays. The president’s three nominees needed to restore a quorum at the Merit Systems Protection Board did not get a vote. The board is approaching its fifth anniversary without a quorum.
  • International holiday travel is picking back up and Customs and Border Protection said new technologies bring wait times down to even pre-COVID levels. CBP uses more facial biometrics and the OneTM mobile application – launched last October – to move travelers across the border faster. The OneTM app is a single portal that directs users to get specific services including inspection of biological and agriculture products when they enter the U.S., and to help travelers see their I-94 entry status quickly.
  • The Postal Service agreed to go above and beyond to deliver election mail in the years to come. USPS went through “extraordinary measures” to deliver mail-in ballots to voters and election boards on time in fall 2020. Now it promises to keep those practices for federal elections through at least 2028 as part of a lawsuit’s settlement. Public Citizen, the NAACP and its Legal Defense Fund filed the lawsuit last year, over concerns the agency wasn’t doing enough to ensure timely delivery of mail-in ballots for the presidential election. USPS also agreed to meet with NAACP in the months leading up to national primaries and general elections and provide weekly service performance metrics. (Federal News Network)

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