New COVID guidance for federal agencies to match CDC recommendations

In today's Federal Newscast, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has new guidance for masking and COVID testing for federal agencies.

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  • The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has new guidance for masking and COVID testing for federal agencies. It’s meant to match the CDC’s latest guidelines, which take stock of the virus’ impact on health care systems in every American county. The task force said federal offices with “low” or “medium” community levels don’t need to require masking. “Medium” level locations should use their existing protocols for COVID screening. And locations the CDC deems at “High” community levels should enforce both masks and screening. The latest guidance applies to everyone, and doesn’t draw any distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.
  • A select group of State Department employees will be singled out brutally if Russia gets its way. The names and addresses of Ukranians who worked at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, known as foreign service nationals, are likely known to Russian forces, said Ambassador Eric Rubin, president of the American Foreign Service Association. Rubin, who has served in both Moscow and Kyiv, said Russian officials forced the State Department to fire 1,000 Russian foreign service nationals. (Federal News Network)
  • The Justice Department is working with the National Academy of Public Administration to review its workforce. NAPA will perform a study on DOJ’s position classifications and descriptions. It will also make recommendations on how to ensure compliance and implement evidence-based classifications. It will also help DOJ develop an implementation plan and metrics by which to measure success. NAPA is searching for fellows to fill out the five-member panel for this study.
  • A federal appeals court found the Postal Service is falling short on pay requirements for its managers and supervisors. A three-judge panel found USPS isn’t meeting a legal requirement to ensure managers and supervisors are paid close to what they could make in the private sector. U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rules in favor of the National Association of Postal Supervisors, which argues USPS wasn’t taking steps to ensure compensation for managers and supervisors was higher than what the employees they oversee earn. The ruling also affirms the association is able to represent nearly all USPS supervisors and managers, regardless of whether the agency classifies them as field, area or headquarters employees. (Federal News Network)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs employees may become subject to the same removal, demotion and suspension policies as other federal employees. Pennsylvania Reps. Connor Lamb (D) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R) introduced a bill this month to protect VA workers from being improperly disciplined. The bill would restore the power of arbitrators to reduce any employee punishment imposed by VA. The bill would also increase the burden of proof necessary for VA to penalize an employee for misconduct.
  • Secretary Denis McDonough is challenging the departments of Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development to get more veterans into permanent housing. McDonough’s new goals to reduce veteran homelessness would build on the progress the two agencies have made since 2009. Among the new goals would be to place at least 1,500 veterans experiencing homelessness into permanent housing, which would be more than a 10% increase in permanent housing placements since 2021. Another goal would increase to 75% the number of VA-HUD Supportive Housing vouchers. That would be the highest rate since 2018. A third goal is to increase to 50% the percentage of veterans who are housed within 90 days of being admitted to HUD-VASH program.
  • One former federal chief innovation officer has some harsh words on his way out the door. Sultan Meghji lasted just about a year in his first stint in the public sector. He left on Feb. 18 after spending the last 12 months as the FDIC’s chief innovation officer. Meghji revealed his frustrations in a column for Bloomberg about what drove him out the door. He said the federal bureaucracy is both hesitant and hostile to technological change. And that is putting America’s global financial leadership in jeopardy. He said a lack of technical expertise, too little continuing education and not enough collaboration are all contributing factors to a financial system that is falling behind.
  • The General Services Administration is putting 25 private-sector corporate and technology experts to work in the federal government as part of its Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Two new agencies will work with fellows this year: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and FEMA. GSA said this year’s cohort is specifically focused on empowering the federal workforce and improving government efficiency.
  • The Defense Department awarded almost $2 billion to start building the space-based communications backbone of the military’s vision for Joint All-Domain Command and Control. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and York Space Systems will each build 42 satellites. The Space Development Agency said they’ll form an interoperable mesh network using laser-based communication in low-earth orbit. The first launches are set to begin in September 2024. (Federal News Network)
  • Leidos won a contract to deliver IT services to Defense agencies worth almost $12 billion over the next nine years. The award is the biggest industry component of DoD’s Fourth Estate Network Optimization (4ENO) initiative. That project puts the Defense Information Systems Agency in charge of shared IT services for 22 separate DoD organizations. DISA said the new contract will help consolidate those agencies’ IT operations into a “single digital enterprise.”

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