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So far, the Army hasn’t involuntarily separated any soldiers for refusing COVID-19 vaccines. But guidance on how the process will work is expected as soon as today. Officials previously said they planned to issue the separation policy by the end of January. According to statistics the Army released late last week, nearly 3,400 active duty soldiers have refused the vaccine, and almost 3,100 have received official reprimands. More than 2,900 have requested religious exemptions. None have been approved. More than 700 soldiers have asked for medical exemptions but only six of those have been approved.
The Federal Acquisition Regulations Council is working on making 42 changes to the FAR. In its regulatory agenda released today, the council detailed 37 rules in the proposal stage, four long-term actions and one regulatory change in the pre-rule stage. Among the proposed rules that the FAR Council is expected to release this year are letting losing bidders on task and delivery order contracts request a more detailed written debriefing. Another one would require contractors to re-represent their size and economic status for all set-aside orders issued under full and open multiple-award contract.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is meeting with industry to discuss its IT acquisition plans. ICE will host a virtual vendor engagement day Feb. 17. Officials plan to discuss the agency’s IT requirements and answer questions from companies. ICE has several major IT contracts in the works, including the Scalable Ways to Initiate Flexible Tasks, or SWIFT, acquisition. The agency released a draft request for proposals for SWIFT earlier this month.
A federal appeals court is striking down a decision that gave agencies more authority at the negotiating table with unions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is overturning the Federal Labor Relations Authority’s decision to limit mid-term bargaining during the term of an agreement. The FLRA in 2020 determined that these so-called zipper clauses were a mandatory bargaining subject, meaning agencies could bring the issue to the Federal Service Impasses Panel to resolve. The National Treasury Employees Union, which led oral arguments for a coalition of unions, says federal labor laws have allowed unions to bargain over issues that come during the term of a collective bargaining agreement for decades. (Federal News Network)
The State Department resolved its email outage within 24 hours of first encountering the problem. An agency spokesperson told reporters that its email systems were back up and running on Friday, and said there was no indication of malicious activity. The outage affected State Department employees worldwide on Thursday. A bulletin sent to employees said the outage was the result of routine patch. (Federal News Network)
The Federal Chief Information Security Officer calls the final zero trust strategy the starting line for a multi-year effort. Agencies have 19 actions to take over the next three or more years to meet the goals of the Biden administration’s new zero trust strategy. Chris DeRusha, the federal CISO, said with the release of the strategy, every agency has the same starting point to begin to change their security environment. “Our focus in the months and years ahead is really just working hand-in-hand with the agencies throughout this implementation process and make sure they have the right tools and support they need to meet the goals we set out in the strategy.” DeRusha said agencies need to use the 2023 and 2024 budget requests to accelerate their efforts.
The China competition bill introduced by House Democrats last week included new cybersecurity provisions. The America Competes Act would establish an Office of Policy Development and Cybersecurity at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The bill would also establish a Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program. It would allow cybersecurity professionals to rotate positions across multiple agencies. The Senate already passed its version of the China competition bill, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, last June.
Big changes are coming to how Navy reservists access government IT networks. Officials are planning the “imminent” rollout of a new virtual desktop platform that’ll let Reserve sailors log in from anywhere. They’ll be able to use just about any device, including personally-owned ones. Officials said the forthcoming launch follows a successful pilot project that tested the concept with about 250 users. (Federal News Network)
The Navy and Marine Corps are undertaking a massive housing inspection initiative. Tens of thousands of privatized military houses are about to get a look over from independent inspectors. The mandatory investigations are a way for the government to understand the condition of the houses it paid companies to build and maintain. The initiative stems from a 2019 law from Congress. Lawmakers were concerned by frequent reports of mice, mold, lead paint and other substandard living conditions in the homes. The Navy and Marine Corps said the inspections should be done by October. (Federal News Network)
Veterans are more likely to stick with treatment for post traumatic stress disorder if they are married, employed or have more severe PTSD. That’s according to a new study by the RAND Corporation. The report found that vets with PTSD tend to respond to treatment better if they have a solid social structure and if they have a higher income. Factors that led to lesser response rates included anger issues and combat exposure. (Federal News Network)