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Many private insurers cover birth control under their plans, now lawmakers are trying to achieve cost parity under TRICARE. More than 140 members of Congress are calling on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to drop copays for contraceptive purchases and services. The lawmakers want Austin to designate birth control as preventative care, which will allow him to waive copays without any legislation.
Federal civilian employees won’t face consequences for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19, at least not for the foreseeable future. A Texas judge issued a nationwide injunction on Friday, saying the president didn’t have the authority to implement the mandate. The Justice Department said it plans to appeal the decision. As of last week, 98% of federal workers were vaccinated, according to the White House. (Federal News Network)
The Biden administration has appealed a Texas court ruling that found the Navy can’t enforce its vaccine mandate against three dozen sailors who objected on religious grounds. Meanwhile, Justice Department attorneys are also trying to move the case to another court either in D.C., Virginia or California. They argue the lawsuit never belonged in the Northern Texas district where it was filed, partly because none of the plaintiffs live there. (Federal News Network)
Lawmakers want input from veterans on their experiences with toxic substances. The Defense Department has a long history of toxic substances and health issues. Agent Orange and burn pits are two famous examples of exposures that harmed military service members. The Veterans Affairs Committee is asking former troops to share their experiences and insight on the disability process. The survey will inform the Honoring Our PACT Act, which is currently in Congress and will expand health benefits for vets exposed to toxic chemicals. The bill will cost more than $300 billion over the next ten years. (Federal News Network)
For sailors on an 18th Century warship, a female crewmember would have been tough to imagine. A female commander would have been even harder. But the Navy’s oldest vessel is being led by a woman for the first time in its history. Cmdr. Billie Farrell took command of the USS Constitution during a ceremony last week. She will lead about 80 sailors who help maintain the ship at its current homeport in Boston.
The Air Force named five wings to lead the service’s new force generation model. Gen. Mark Kelly selected the 4th fighter wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the 23rd wing at Moody Air Force Base, the 55th wing at Offutt Air Force Base, the 355th wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and the 366th fighter wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base to spearhead the effort. The new force generation model is focused on shifting to wings that are more focused on operations needed for near-peer competition.
Agencies are raising urgent warnings about Russian cyber threats to critical infrastructure. The Federal Communications Commission is urging companies to take steps to defend themselves from Russian state-sponsored cyber threats. In a public notice, the FCC is also recommending companies notify the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency about any threats affecting their networks. CISA, the FBI and the National Security Agency are encouraging the cybersecurity community to be aware of Russian cyber tactics. The warnings come amid tensions along the Russia-Ukraine border.
The Department of Homeland Security is gearing up to oversee a major cybersecurity grant program this year. The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act included $1 billion to help states and localities improve their cyber defenses. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says DHS plans to distribute about $200 million this year. He said the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is also prepared to dispatch employees to help states and localities improve their network defenses.
The Agriculture Department’s 100,000 employees are getting an upgraded network to make the delivery of mission services more secure, resilient and efficient. USDA awarded Lumen Technologies a 11-year, $1.2 billion contract under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions or EIS contract vehicle. Through Lumen, USDA will take advantage of a modern edge computing architecture and fiber connectivity to acquire, analyze and act on data closer to where it is collected, which will reduce latency and save bandwidth. USDA was one of 15 agencies to receive an “F” grade under the most recent FITARA scorecard for its progress on the EIS transition.
Agencies got some help to make sure their IPv6 networks are secure. As agencies work toward the goal of transitioning 20% of their network devices to Internet Protocol Version 6 or IPv6 by 2023, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is offering some guidance. CISA released details about how IPv6 and the Trusted Internet Connections or TIC 3.0 can be integrated. The agency also created a cross walk between IPv6 security considerations and TIC 3.0 capabilities. CISA said the guidance serves as a facilitator of conversations surrounding the protocol so it can determine whether additional guidance may be needed. The Office of Management and Budget set several IPv6 goals in a November 2020 memo.
The Postal Service is building off several recent high-profile licensing partnerships to branch out into Non-Fungible Tokens of its stamps. USPS recently sold NFTs of images of its Day of the Dead and Santa Claus-themed stamps. Last year USPS signed licensing deals with Nike and Vans to sell agency-inspired shoes and apparel. USPS in 2019 also reached a deal with Forever 21 to sell a line of USPS-themed clothing. The agency expects to launch about four or five licensing deals later this year. (Federal News Network)
The Office of Personnel Management issued guidance to implement a $15 an hour minimum wage for civilian federal employees. OPM is releasing pay schedules and guidance, as part of an executive order President Joe Biden signed on his second day in office. This change impacts 67,000 federal workers, most of whom work for the Defense Department at military bases. It also impacts nearly 10,000 employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and nearly 2,000 staff at the Agriculture Department. Those who benefit include custodial workers, wildland firefighters and plant protection technicians. OPM Director Kiran Ahuja, in an exclusive commentary on Federal News Network, said this will ensure every federal job offers a pathway to the middle class. (Federal News Network)