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About 20% of all federal agency staff working abroad evacuated their posts during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the State Department didn’t communicate key elements of its global evacuation policy to the 26 agencies whose employees work in embassies and consulates overseas. The Government Accountability Office said agencies at first didn’t have sufficient information to help them determine which staff should remain overseas and which should be evacuated. Agency officials told GAO they didn’t know whether State would reauthorize its global evacuation orders until a week before it was about to expire every month.
The Social Security Administration is hiring retired staff to manage crowds at field offices as in-person service ramps up. SSA leadership anticipates crowds and wait times for customers seeking assistance for at least the first month of the agency opening its doors to walk-in traffic. In a solicitation obtained by Federal News Network, SSA has called on agency retirees to help with office reentry and to re-open field offices to the public. SSA said it’s looking for temporary support at about 400 field offices. The agency plans to hire retirees to work in field offices for up to 30 days, but may extend assignments depending on office needs.
Lawmakers want a major review of the challenges agencies face in complying with the Freedom of Information Act. Leaders on key oversight committees are asking the Government Accountability Office for a comprehensive study of systemic issues agencies face in meeting their FOIA obligations. The lawmakers want more information on government-wide challenges as they weigh potential reforms to the open records law. The request comes as Attorney General Merrick Garland directs agencies to apply a “presumption of openness” when processing FOIA requests. The federal FOIA backlog has steadily grown in recent years, reaching 142,000 cases at the end of FY20. (Federal News Network)
Congressman Jody Hice (R-Ga.) wants to revive several executive orders from former President Donald Trump. Hice has introduced a bill to modernize the federal workforce, which includes a new version of the now-canceled Schedule F executive order. The “Accountable Federal Employees Act” would address obstacles to disciplining or removing ineffective federal workers. The bill would create reforms to streamline employee removal procedures, limit time that’s used for union activities and minimize delays in collective bargaining negotiations.
The National Science Foundation established its first new directorate in more than 30 years. The Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, or TIP, aims to accelerate the development of new technologies and products to address some of the biggest needs of society. Through TIP, NSF will launch a set of integrated initiatives to advance critical and emerging technologies; accelerate the translation of research results from the lab to market, and cultivate new education paths to ensure a diverse and skilled workforce. Erwin Gianchandani will lead the TIP and be the assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships.
In the world of federal contracting, the venerable DUNS numbers are done for. The General Services Administration has been trying to replace Dun and Bradstreet DUNS numbers to identify contractors for years. Now it will, starting April 4. That’s when the System for Award Management, or SAM, will start using a government-issued number called the Unique Identity ID. SAM.gov will be down for the April 1st weekend to program in the switchover. Companies listed in SAM already have their unique IDs. GSA has generated 2.5 million of them.
Policymakers are laying the groundwork to establish a new commercial geospatial-intelligence data program office. The 2022 Intelligence Authorization Act directs the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office to come up with a plan for establishing the office. Both agencies have made efforts to work more closely with the fast-growing commercial satellite industry. But officials say sifting through the vast amounts of commercial space data is a challenge. The new data program office would be housed within the NRO, but include personnel from NGA as well. (Federal News Network)
The Defense Department makes almost a billion dollar in network modernization awards. The Pentagon’s 52,000 telephone lines for voice calls that run on copper wires are going the way of the dinosaur. DoD is moving the entire Pentagon reservation to an integrated IP environment for voice and video services under a $515 million deal with Verizon. At the same time, DoD also made another award to Verizon to modernize voice, video and data network services for more than 370 locations across the National Capital Region. Finally, DoD made a third award to Verizon. This $18 million task order is to provide voice, transport, internet and managed services at Fort Belvoir. All three of these awards come under the Enterprise Infrastructure Services program.
Some big names in the defense community will be helping to formulate the military’s next posture review. The Strategic Posture Review looks at the long-term policy of the United States’ nuclear policy and sets plans for the best way forward. Some of the nominees for the committee to create the new plan include John Hyten, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.).
The Air Force has a new head of its Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. Nils Sandell has been appointed to the position, as part of what’s been a year long effort to restart the board’s operations after a Pentagon review of all DOD advisory committees, directed by the Defense Secretary. The Air Force said the board has provided a steady flow of independent scientific and technical advice to the Department’s leadership for over 75 years.
Military families are feeling the pressure of inflation. A new study shows what exactly is on service members’ minds. Military spouse employment tops the list of stressors for service member families. The issue is a top concern for 43% of families, according to results. Military spouses face unemployment at a much higher level than the national average. The rate currently sits at about 20%. Factors adding to the spouses missing out on jobs include constant moves with their partners and lack of childcare. The Defense Department is taking some steps to help, like holding job fairs with businesses for remote positions. (Federal News Network)