Sloppy expense-accounts leave former government scientist owing thousands of dollars

In today's Federal Newscast: A former top government scientist is exposed for thousands of dollars in sloppy expense-account reporting. An $83 million contract ...

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  • Correction: The original version of this story misidentified the former director of the Energy Department’s Economic Impact and Diversity office in question. We sincerely regret the error.
    The former director of the Energy Department’s Economic Impact and Diversity office collected more than $14,000 in overpayments for his travel expenses. That’s according to a report from the Office of Inspector General. The IG found that the director extended travel into weekends and failed to record personal time. According to the report, most of the overpayments went toward improper meals, housing and airfare. The director has repaid over $5,000, but still has an outstanding balance of more than $8,000.
  • The Defense Department got a win in the battle with Oklahoma over the vaccine mandate. A federal judge is urging the Pentagon to give Oklahoma National Guard members a little more time to get their vaccines, but is still ruling against a lawsuit challenging the mandate. The judge denied Oklahoma’s request for a preliminary injunction on the vaccine mandate for its National Guard members brought by the state’s governor. The lawsuit makes the case that the governor has command over members of the National Guard and not the federal government. Air National Guard members needed to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 2, 2021, while Army National Guard members have until June 20, 2022.  (AP-Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department, and the Health and Human Services Department have awarded a new contract to boost the nation’s ability to produce rapid COVID-19 tests. Yesterday’s $137 million award went to the company MilliporeSigma. They’ll use the funds to add manufacturing capabilities to one of the firm’s production facilities in Wisconsin. DoD said the contract will eventually let the factory produce about 83 million tests per month for COVID and other potential viruses in the future.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is giving agencies more time to implement reforms to the federal hiring process. OPM director Kiran Ahuja said agencies have made progress in changing the way they assess job candidates, but the office has decided to give them until the end of next year to fully implement the reforms. The changes were first directed by former President Donald Trump in an executive order last summer. The order tells agencies to adjust their hiring preferences so they lean more on candidates’ actual skills and knowledge, and less on college degrees. It’s the second time OPM has delayed implementation of those changes.
  • College students and recent grads have until Jan. 31 to apply for a new internship intended to get more young people into public service. The Commerce and Transportation Departments have teamed up with the Partnership for Public Service to create the Future Leaders in Public Service Internship Program for Summer 2022. Interns can pick from career tracks like mission support, contracting and acquisitions, STEM and innovation, policy and administration, or liberal arts. Internships could be virtual depending on the agency’s needs and telework status.
  • Afghanistan looks like a lost cause, so the State Department is paying fresh attention to next-door Pakistan. State will make two grants of about $1.5 million each. Its Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor is looking for groups to help improve the conditions for working women in Pakistan, and to help improve the accountability and responsiveness of the country’s government. State said potential grantees’ programs should take place on locale. The fifth most populous nation in the world, Pakistan has persistent poverty and social inequality.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology has a new director for its Engineering Laboratory. Joannie Chin, who has served at NIST for 26 years, among other things will lead the lab’s research on infrastructure renewal, building performance, energy efficiency and measurement science. The lab has more than 400 staff members and a budget of about $83 million. Most recently Chin served as acting director for NIST’s Engineering Lab.
  • Online military exchanges are now officially open to active and retired civilian Defense Department and Coast Guard employees. The Pentagon announced the expansion of benefits back in April. Exchanges carry everything from convenience products to clothes and electronics tax-free. Interested parties must verify their status through the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
  • The Federal Risk Authorization Management Program or FedRAMP is updating its baseline security standards, and wants your help. The cloud security program is seeking feedback on its incorporation of new controls outlined in the fifth revision of NIST special publication 800-53. The biggest change FedRAMP is making is applying a threat-based methodology to the control set. This will help reduce the number of required controls, especially for systems in the moderate and high ranges. Comments on the updated FedRAMP standards are due by April 1.
  • GSA’s IT shop wants to remind agencies the contract for making online events accessible to the visually impaired or hard of hearing will end Feb. 13. Two services under the Fed-Relay IDIQ contract, video remote interpreting and live remote captioning, will end and cannot be extended. GSA recommends that after Feb. 13, agencies procure these services under the Translation and Interpretation Services Multiple Award Schedule.

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