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A federal appeals court sees a high bar to restore a vaccine mandate for federal contractors. A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit acknowledges the Biden administration has felt the impact of contracting delays from the COVID-19 pandemic. But those judges said it remains unclear whether the Biden administration has the authority to impose a COVID vaccine mandate on federal contractor employees. Those make up about one-fifth of the U.S. workforce. A federal judge in Georgia last December blocked the administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate for contractors. At least four federal appeals courts are reviewing the mandate. (Federal News Network)
Republican lawmakers want to provide more flexibility in federal career paths. As part of an effort to streamline the federal hiring process, Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced the “Inspired to Service Hiring Improvements Act.” The bill would offer the option to extend temporary appointments, and give more agencies direct-hire authority if there’s a severe shortage of candidates. Recent college graduates would also see more federal job opportunities under the legislation.
The Office of Personnel Management wants to make it easier to recruit cyber experts for federal jobs. Under a new cybersecurity hiring resource hub, agencies can more easily access information about potential benefits available for those cyber positions. Some of the benefits include flexibilities on pay and leave, for which agencies can request approval from OPM. Agencies can find the resource hub on OPM’s future of work website, at OPM.gov.
Some lawmakers are worried about which agency oversees the cybersecurity of the energy sector. Lawmakers who head up committees with jurisdiction for the Energy Department said DOE should be the lead for cybersecurity in the energy sector. They’re concerned about a new law that requires critical infrastructure companies to report incidents to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The lawmakers wrote a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm urging her to maintain DOE’s role as the sector risk management agency. They also asked Granholm to ensure agencies don’t duplicate cyber incident reporting rules for energy companies.
The Defense Department is encouraging its employees to prevent, report and advocate against sexual assault and harassment. The new campaign, called STEP FORWARD, is putting an emphasis on non-victims to do their part in preventing incidents and encouraging people to seek assistance. The campaign coincides with National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month, which started at the beginning of April.
The military is rethinking the future for its most highly trained service members. U.S. Special Operations Forces are focusing on modernization, force employment and development as the military shifts its focus toward China and Russia. The new strategy highlights cooperation at the highest levels of the Special Operations community. The document establishes a 10-year framework of aims and efforts that keep the United States a dominant power. The community will also work on increasing diversity and inclusion.
A new playbook from the White House is out, this time on rural infrastructure delivery. The playbook aims to help local, state and tribal governments tap into funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for rural projects like broadband internet access, the Agriculture Department’s Re-Connect program, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund clean up program and more. The playbook also lists over 100 programs with cost share or matching requirement waivers and flexibilities. The Biden Administration said the playbook reinforces the Justice40 environmental justice initiative outlined in the president’s climate goals.
President Biden nominated Steve Dettelbach for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Dettelbach is a former U.S. attorney from Ohio and several gun control and reform groups endorse the nomination. Biden announced his pick along with a final Justice Department rule to crack down on un-serialized “ghost guns.” The rule now requires federally licensed firearms dealers to transfer any key records to ATF once they conclude any licensed activity or close down their business. The previous rule only required these dealers to retain key records for 20 years.
The Department of Homeland Security is looking to overhaul one of its key communications networks. In a notice, DHS said it will redesign the Homeland Security Information Network. The network allows for information sharing across homeland security components. But DHS said the current platform is too complex and costly, and it’s not optimized for the cloud and mobile devices. Under project “Phoenix,” the department plans on building a new, cloud-based version of the network. DHS is asking for feedback on its plans by April 25.
The cost of delays at the IRS are adding up. The Government Accountability Office finds the IRS spent more than $3 billion on interest last year after running into delays processing tax returns. That’s a 50% increase compared to the prior year. Over the past seven years, the agency has paid $14 billion in interest on delayed tax returns. GAO finds the IRS also spent $177 million last year on overtime for employees who working in returns processing returns and service.