Senate bill calls for agencies to prepare for the worst

In today's Federal Newscast, lawmakers OK a bill with new disaster planning requirements for federal agencies.

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  • The Office of Personnel Management struggles to capture accurate data on the number of federal employees who telework. This is because the systems that could help capture that data like payroll and the Enterprise Human Resources Integration databases are less than reliable. The Government Accountability Office found OPM doesn’t do a good enough job of consistently monitoring error reports, integrating payroll data into a larger suite of databases and strengthening internal controls. GAO made four recommendations, one of which OPM already implemented, which was to improve its data standards.
  • Congress is one step closer to averting a government shutdown next week. The House passed a continuing resolution that gives Congress until March 11 to come up with a spending deal for the rest of the fiscal year. The Senate has until February 18 to approve the new continuing resolution and avoid a government shutdown. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said lawmakers are close to a deal on a comprehensive spending package. “I have every expectation that we can finalize a framework in short order, and then work together to fill in the details and enact an omnibus.” (Federal News Network)
  • Lawmakers OK a bill with new disaster planning requirements for federal agencies. Agencies would have to take disaster resilience into account when investing in and managing federal properties and assets under a bill advancing in the Senate. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the Disaster Resiliency Planning Act yesterday. The legislation would also have agencies identify gaps in their disaster prevention efforts. Proponents of the bill point to how there were 22 disasters in 2020 that cost at least $1 billion each in damages, according to the Government Accountability Office.
  • A federal privacy watchdog is set to get back on track. The Senate confirmed Sharon Bradford Franklin to serve as chairwoman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Beth Ann Williams was also confirmed to serve as a member of the board. The board has been operating without a quorum since last year, limiting its ability to issue reports and initiate new projects. The body ensures federal counterterror programs comply with privacy and civil liberties laws. Franklin was most recently co-director of the security and surveillance project at the Center for Democracy and Technology.
  • A long-awaited reform bill to save the Postal Service about $50 billion over the next decade takes a major step forward. The House passed the Postal Service Reform Act, which would eliminate a 2006 mandate for USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits well into the future. The bill would also eliminate the agency’s obligation to cover $57 billion in scheduled payments it didn’t make to the retiree health benefits fund. The bill has 14 Democratic and 14 Republican co-sponsors in the Senate, and a Senate floor vote is expected soon. (Federal News Network)
  • Congressional leaders say it’s time to pull the plug on a multibillion dollar system the Veterans Affairs department plans to use to manage its supply chain. VA decided to borrow the Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support system from the Defense Logistics Agency three years ago, but auditors said it’s met fewer than half the requirements at the one site where it’s been deployed. An internal assessment has also recommended the program’s cancellation, but VA won’t say whether it’s made a formal decision. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army is changing to adapt to climate change and plans to be more cognizant of its footprint. The branch said climate change conditions means new operational challenges, expanded disaster response missions and more threats to the United States. The service unveiled a new strategy that will make its bases more resilient to extreme weather, prepare a climate ready force and create plans necessary to operate in a world with rising sea levels. The Army’s strategy also plans to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and have an all-electric non-tactical vehicle fleet by 2035.
  • A federal judge ruled that the Air Force must pay more than $230 million in damages to survivors and victims’ families of a 2017 Texas church massacre for failing to flag a conviction that might have kept the gunman from legally buying the weapon used in the shooting. U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez had ruled in July that the Air Force was “60% liable” for the attack because it failed to submit Devin Patrick Kelley’s assault conviction during his time in the Air Force to a national database. More than two dozen people were killed when Kelley opened fire during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army is tempering expectations for its Integrated Visual Augmentation System. The goggles are supposed to integrate real-time data to soldiers in the field. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said the first iteration of the goggles will likely be like the first cellphones: clunky and cumbersome. The $22 billion IVAS program was delayed by a year last fall and has gone through several hiccups during its development. (Federal News Network)
  • GSA expands the 8(a) STARS 3 contract with another set of awards. There are more than 500 new companies from which agencies can buy IT services and get credit toward their small business goals. The General Services Administration made awards yesterday to the second group of companies in the 8(a) program under its STARS III governmentwide acquisition contract. GSA made the first set of awards last June and it expects to name a third cohort of 8(a) vendors to the contract later this year. So far agencies have spent more than $80 million through 77 task orders under the STARS III vehicle.

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