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The Social Security Administration told employees to get ready for in-person services. The agency will open its doors to the public on April 7, for both walk-ins and those with appointments. The agency’s employees returned to the office on March 30. The SSA said it will continue safety requirements, like social distancing, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The American Federation of Government Employees told Federal News Network that the lack of clarity on re-opening plans will exacerbate problems with recruitment and retention at SSA.
Federal employees who need to take parental bereavement leave now have more support from the Office of Personnel Management. OPM issued guidance to agencies to help implement this type of leave. Most federal employees received the new benefit at the end of 2021 under the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2022. OPM will assist agencies in executing the policy equally across government by offering details on eligibility for the two-week benefit. Parental bereavement leave is separate from all other types of leave from work.
The State Department launched a new bureau as part of an effort to elevate its cyber mission. The State Department will focus on setting international norms for cybersecurity through its new Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy. The bureau has three policy units, focused on international cyberspace security, international information and communications policy, and digital freedom. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced last October that the agency would stand up this bureau as part of a broader modernization of the agency. The State Department will also develop a cybersecurity strategy that reflects its restructuring. (Federal News Network)
The FBI hired a new official to lead key data and cybersecurity efforts. FBI Director Christopher Wray picked Nathan Taylor to serve as assistant director of the Information Technology Applications and Data Division. He most recently served as deputy director of the same division. Taylor will be in charge of meeting the FBI’s applications and data services needs, as well as defending the agency’s cybersecurity infrastructure. The FBI’s cyber defenses were dinged in its most recent annual audit, which found weaknesses throughout the agency’s information security program.
Agencies want to raise awareness about risks to the country’s technology supply chain. April is National Supply Chain Integrity month. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said companies and agencies should be up to speed on supply chain management practices. A February report found numerous risks to the global information and communications technology supply chain. Officials said counterfeit electronics, software hacks and other risks can disrupt the operations of both government agencies and critical infrastructure.
About 59,000 businesses will now be considered small under updated size standards from the Small Business Administration. SBA completed its second five-year review effort as required under the Small Business Jobs Act. The four new rules released March 30 will increase revenues-based small business size standards in 16 North American Industrial Classification System sectors. In all, SBA received more than 1,100 comments during the proposed rule stage of the four rules. As a result, it will increase 229 size standards across 16 sectors.
The number of IT working capital funds across the government is slowly growing. The Treasury Department was the fifth agency to receive approval from Congress to bank extra money and use it for IT modernization priorities. Treasury received permission from lawmakers in 2022 to create an IT working capital fund. The 2017 Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act authorized the creation of these savings accounts, but few agencies have received approval from appropriators. Treasury now joins the SBA, OPM, the Labor Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development as the only agencies to use IT working capital funds under the MGT Act. HUD and EPA have modified existing working capital funds through the MGT Act to save money for IT modernization efforts. (Federal News Network)
The Office of Special Council is filing a complaint against the Army for retaliating against a whistleblower. Dr. Patricia Dillion brought up concerns about laboratory inspections where dangerous toxins were being handled at Ft. Detrick. The complaint said the Army reassigned Dillion, investigated her and proposed firing her from her job for bringing up those issues.
The Space Force will consider a handful of candidates to host its Space Training and Readiness Command Headquarters. The Department of the Air Force said all of the bases under Space Force jurisdiction are under consideration for Space Training and Readiness Command Headquarters. That amounts to six installations including Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado and Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. STARCOM is one of three Space Force field commands and is responsible for the education and training of space professionals and the development of space warfighting doctrine. Site surveys will begin in the next month.
The Biden administration expects climate change’s toll on the federal government will become more expensive over time. New assessments that are part of the administration’s fiscal 2023 budget request showed the federal government could spend up $128 billion a year to mitigate some of the effects of climate change by the end of the century. This spending included flood insurance, crop insurance, wildfire suppression and flooding at federal facilities. The administration projects as many as 12,000 federal buildings could be flooded under this timeframe, with a total replacement cost of more than $43 billion.