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A federal appeals court has dealt another blow to the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. In a 2-1 ruling, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found the president overstepped his legal authority by using the procurement system to mandate vaccines. That case only applies to three states, and it’s not the final word on the issue. Another appellate court is set to hear arguments about whether to uphold another judge’s ruling that’s temporarily blocked the contractor vaccine mandate nationwide. (Federal News Network)
The Postal Service is asking for a temporary exemption from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-and-testing mandate for large employers. USPS told OSHA it needs the additional time to implement the mandate so that it doesn’t risk losing more employees or limit its ability to deliver mail and packages nationwide. OSHA said it will start issuing penalties to businesses with more than 100 employees on January 10, if they don’t comply with the testing and vaccine mandate. A federal court blocked OSHA from implementing the mandate, but an appeals court later reinstated it. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over this case on Friday.
Agencies have five new requirements to meet under the NO FEAR Act, which governs federal anti-discrimination, retaliation and whistleblower protection regulations. The Office of Personnel Management outlined these changes in a proposed rule to help implement the Elijah E. Cummings Federal Employee Anti-discrimination Act. One new mandate is for each agency to create a tracking system for discrimination complaints. Another is for agencies to provide public notice in an accessible format of any final decision in which there has been a finding of discrimination. including retaliation, against the agency. Comments on the proposed rule are due in 30 days.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has not properly followed whistleblower laws for its contractors. That’s according to a report from the Office of Inspector General. The FDIC did not make sure contractors and subcontractors informed their employees about whistleblower protections, the IG found. The report also noted the agency failed to obtain confidentiality agreements from all of its contractors. The IG recommended the FDIC review its existing contracts and obtain any outstanding confidentiality agreements. The FDIC said it plans to complete its corrective actions by the end of May 2022.
Employees at the Federal Correctional Complex Florence in Colorado will receive a 10% pay increase. The move comes three months after the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1169 staged a protest outside the facility to highlight forced overtime and other understaffing issues. The Bureau of Prisons had already approved a 10% pay increase for correctional officers, but it will now get extended to all eligible staff at the complex. The agency also agreed to request a 25% pay increase from the Office of Personnel Management as part of its retention efforts.
A National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency contract can move forward after the Government Accountability Office tossed out a company’s second bid protest. The award went to Deloitte Consulting to design, build and operate a corporate automation implementation center. Steel Point Solutions successfully protested the initial award, arguing NGA overlooked an organizational conflict. NGA then re-awarded the contract to Deloitte after it received mitigation plans from the contractor. Steel Point Solutions protested again, but this time, GAO sided with the agency and denied the company’s arguments.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is getting ready to accept proposals for a big IT services contract. ICE plans to release a solicitation in mid-January for a multi-faceted IT services contract. It’s called the Scalable Ways to Initiate Flexible Tasks, or SWIFT, acquisition. It will cover Platform-as-a-Service, hyper automation, data visualization, collaborative services and more. The Department of Homeland Security’s acquisition forecast shows SWIFT will be worth north of $100 million. It’ll be a multiple-award indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. ICE projects awarding the contract some time near the end of March.
Four words capture the next evolution of the Homeland Security Department’s acquisition mindset. Prepare, energize, inspire and enrich are at the center of the DHS’s new acquisition strategic plan. Paul Courtney, who became the new chief procurement officer for DHS in August, is challenging the agency’s procurement community to embody all of these concepts. “It’s just much about the customer having a great experience as it is about improving the experience of the procurement professional. So it is really the all encompassing experience both for our staff and for the customer as they work with us.” Courtney said his goal is to make DHS a premier acquisition organization.
The Defense Department Inspector General’s Office said it intends to investigate the Pentagon’s telehealth services. An announcement from the DoD IG said the office will look into potential program integrity risks associated with telehealth services offered by TRICARE. DoD has been expanding telehealth in the past few years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
Hawaii is urging the federal government to get involved in problems with clean drinking water at a military base on the island. The Hawaii Department of Health is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to study how civilians have been affected by a petroleum leak at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Red Hill. Members of the military and their families started falling ill from the leak late last year. Officials said jet fuel is contaminating the ground water. The water system serves nearly 100,000 people. The Hawaii Congressional delegation is urging the federal government to comply with Hawaii’s request.
The Biden administration is taking further steps to ensure federally funded research doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. A new National Security Presidential Memorandum gives federal research agencies 120 days to draft new grant application forms, to clarify what scientists receiving federal funding need to disclose about their research. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said China and other countries are illegally acquiring research paid for by the United States.
The Census Bureau sworn in its first Hispanic director to permanently lead the agency. The Senate confirmed Robert Santos, a former chief methodologist and vice president at the Urban Institute, to lead the agency in November, and will serve a five-year term at the bureau. During his tenure, Santos will oversee the rollout of data from the 2020 census, and will help get preparations underway for the next decennial count in 2030. (Federal News Network)