Contractors have less than two months to create affirmative action programs

In today's Federal Newscast, most federal supply and service contractors and subcontractors have less than two months to certify that they are meeting their req...

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  • Federal managers have some help to ensure their employees are performing at a high level no matter where they are working. A new memo from the Office of Personnel Management offers them performance management tips for a hybrid workplace. Among the tips are: establish intentional breaks, exercise and go outdoors. Agency leadership are also encouraged to host Q&A sessions at virtual town hall meetings. This memo and associated tips come as the number of federal employees working remotely has increased dramatically over the past two years. (Federal News Network)
  • You’ve heard of the cybersecurity workforce shortage. And the data science workforce shortage. Now the government faces yet another workforce shortage. The National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy delve into ways to widen education and training opportunities for a future quantum science workforce. They held a workshop this week with a group called National Q-12 Educational Partnership. Now they’ve issued a new strategy for a math and science field they say is foundational for industries of the future, and for transforming today’s industries.
  • A new White House office is urged to take the lead on a national cyber workforce strategy. The National Academy of Public Administration says cybersecurity workforce initiatives are faltering in the absence of governmentwide strategy. So the academy’s latest report urges the White House Office of the National Cyber Director to take action. It says the office should coordinate cyber talent initiatives across agencies, and work with the private sector, too. The United States has some 460,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions. (Federal News Network)
  • The Social Security Administration has issued a detailed managers’ checklist for return to offices. It calls for component meetings with union representatives on specific dates between now and the March 30 reentry date. With safety drills and orientation the following week. One American Federation of Government Workers council president complains to acting commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi and members of Congress, saying the plan was laid out without talks with bargaining units before establishing the timeline.
  • Most federal supply and service contractors and subcontractors have less than two months to certify that they are meeting their requirement to develop and maintain annual affirmative action programs. The Labor Department says contractors with more than 50 employees and a contract worth more than $50,000 must register in the contractor portal by March 30. The Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs says by certifying electronically, Labor can monitor and promote contractor compliance with the goals of affirmative action.
  • After a nearly two-month grace period, the Army says it is ready to fire soldiers resisting the COVID vaccine. The Army says it will immediately begin discharging soldiers who are refusing to get their coronavirus vaccine. Soldiers were supposed to be fully vaccinated by mid-December. The Army has since issued more than 3,000 reprimands to soldiers who have not gotten their shots. The Army also relieved six commanders from duty for refusing the shots. The other military services have already begun casting off service members who refuse to get vaccinated. The Marine Corps has fired nearly 400 troops and the Air Force has pushed out 87 airmen to date. (Federal News Network)
  • Minority service members are reporting racism in the ranks, hostile environments on bases and harassment from military and civilian law enforcement. A new study from Blue Star Families gives an in-depth look at what service members of color are facing in the military. More than 40% of minority troops reported that they turned down assignments that could have improved their careers because of perceived racism at the new location. (Federal News Network)
  • Congress, the administration gets another wake up call about the state of the defense industrial base. The number of new companies working for the Department of Defense continues to shrink. A new report from the National Defense Industrial Association and Govini found the number of new contractors who are working for DoD was only 6,300 in 2021 as compared to more than 12,000 in 2019. The survey says the complexity of working for DoD is a barrier for innovative companies and products to enter the market. NDIA’s Vital Signs report found the overall health and readiness of the defense industrial base at its lowest point ever.
  • A Defense Department office meant to bring its data and artificial intelligence work under one roof is up and running. DoD is naming its chief information officer John Sherman as its acting Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer, a position that began Tuesday. The office isn’t fully built out yet, but will reach full operating capability by June 1. The CD-AO will oversee DoD’s chief data officer, the Joint AI Center and the Defense Digital Service. Sherman told reporters the restructuring of these offices will give DoD “end-to-end” cohesion on everything from data collection and curation,  to advanced analytics that will give the agency an advantage in decision-making and operations. (Federal News Network)
  • House Democrats reintroduce a bill that would revive a defunct emerging tech watchdog office within Congress. The Office of Technology Assessment Improvement and Enhancement Act would give the Office of Technology Assessment the ability to supply lawmakers with briefings and assessments on emerging technologies. It would also allow OTA to easily recruit and hire experts from academia and industry. Congressmen Mark Takano (D-Cal.)  Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), and Don Beyer (D-Virg.) introduced the bill. OTA mostly exists in name only, after Congress defunded the office in 1995.
  • House lawmakers are moving forward with a pair of new cyber and supply chain proposals. The Committee on Oversight and Reform voted through a bill updating the Federal Information Security Modernization Act yesterday. The bill aims to modernize federal cyber standards and streamline reporting requirements for agencies. The committee also approved the Supply Chain Security Training Act. It would create a centralized training program to teach federal acquisition officials how to identify and address supply chain threats.
  • A bipartisan group of senators is calling for an investigation into the Postal Service’s delays delivering mail for customers who are blind. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are asking the USPS inspector general to look into widespread delays getting free mailed materials to recipients who are blind or have other physical disabilities. That includes special-format audio, braille and large-print materials. USPS is almost self-funded through its revenue, but gets modest funding from Congress to cover free postage under this program.
  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approves a full slate of Biden administration nominees, including two picks that are key to federal workforce policy. The committee advances the nomination of Cathy Harris, a long-time federal employment attorney, to serve as the chairwoman of the Merit Systems Protection Board. The board hasn’t had a quorum for more than four-and-a-half years, and hasn’t had any members at all since March 2019. The committee also approved the nomination of former MSPB chairwoman, Susan Tsui Grundmann, to serve as a member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

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