Agencies may need to change to adapt to post-COVID workplaces

To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe in PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

The Small Business Administration is coming under fire for how it has managed a key loan program to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventeen Republican lawmakers wrote to SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman seeking information about how the agency managed the COVID-19 Economic Injury...

READ MORE

To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe in PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

  • The Small Business Administration is coming under fire for how it has managed a key loan program to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventeen Republican lawmakers wrote to SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman seeking information about how the agency managed the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The lawmakers say administrative missteps continued to plague the EIDL and prevent basic communication efforts with small businesses. The letter comes one day after SBA closed the EIDL portal and 11 days after it stopped accepting loan applications. SBA says it allocated more than $351 billion in relief aid to 3.9 million borrowers through the relief fund.
  • Running low on COVID-19 tests? The Biden administration says now’s your chance to stock up. The White House says households can now order a third round of free COVID-19 rapid tests on COVIDTests.gov, and can now receive eight new tests. That’s double what households could order the previous two rounds. The Biden administration is paying for the tests through funds from the American Rescue Plan spending package. The Postal Service has delivered about 350 million free tests through the program so far. About 70 million users have logged onto the site to order tests, but households can also order them over the phone.
  • The State Department evacuated more than 800 Americans and other individuals from Wuhan, China in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. But an inspector general report finds areas where State and its partner agencies could have communicated better. State struggled to provide accurate flight manifests of who it was bringing back to the U.S. to partner agencies. The department also had limited communications with state and local governments after the Department of Health and Human Services assumed primary responsibility for arrangements U.S. ports of entry. The IG finds the Chinese government also hampered the agency’s ability to communicate with Americans living abroad.
  • With a fleet of about 15,000 vehicles globally, the State Department needs to manage over a million requests for these vehicles annually, and now they must meet fuel efficiency and alternative fuel regulations. To accomplish that, the department is putting out feelers for the availability and capabilities of fleet management companies. They released a sources sought notice seeking assistance in the overall planning, coordination and administration of its agency-wide fleet management program and initiatives. Those interested should submit their responses by May 31.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s having difficulty meeting some of its commitments due to understaffing. For example, EPA Administrator Michael Regan says the agency currently has only 50% of the staff it needs to meet the requirements of the Toxic Substances Control Act. That’s why EPA’s budget request includes funds to hire 1,900 new full-time employees. Regan says EPA also needs new talent and expertise to keep up with the evolution of technology.
  • The Social Security Administration has lost one out of every eight of its employees. SSA staffing is at a 25-year low. That’s compounded by long training times for new hires and an overworked staff. At a House hearing, the agency’s Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Grace Kim, acknowledged employees’ low job satisfaction. Kim says a lack of adequate funding worsens retention issues. The agency’s fiscal 2023 budget request includes room for four thousand new hires and expands overtime hours.
  • The Office of Management and Budget director wants agencies to look at the future of work. Shalanda Young, the OMB director, tells House Appropriations Committee lawmakers that there are things agencies must do to stay competitive with the private sector. This means OMB and other agencies must reevaluate what work looks like. “What do we have to do to retain and get good staff? I think that comes down to are we providing a flexible workplace? Are we hoteling? Do we provide maximum telework?” Young says she expects those changes to produce savings in office space as well.
  • The White House withdraws some key nominees for the Department of Homeland Security. Alice Hill was put forth as deputy administrator for resilience at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. William Valdez was nominated to be undersecretary for management at DHS. The White House withdrew both nominees on Tuesday without explanation. Valdez’s nomination was first announced last July, while Hill’s nomination was announced in January.
  • The National Treasury Employees Union pushes for more clarity on who can file labor-management bargaining disputes. Currently, the Federal Labor Relations Authority lets “any lawful association” submit a request. But NTEU argues the language unintentionally opens the door to groups not affiliated with federal workers. So far, only one request has ever been granted to an unaffiliated group. But, the union says FLRA still uses time and resources to justify the denial of those types of requests. NTEU is petitioning to clarify the language for FLRA.
  • The Air Force awards its largest military construction contract ever. In 2018, a category five hurricane devastated Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Now, the Air Force is preparing to invest more than $600 million for facilities supporting F-35s on the base. The contract is part of the $4.9 billion rebuild of the installation. The funds will go toward hangars, a maintenance complex and a training facility. The Air Force is billing the Tyndall rebuild as the base of the future. One which can withstand extreme weather and provide new attractions for airmen. (Federal News Network)
  • The Space Force is the newest member of the intelligence community and now it’s ready to build that out a bit. The service says it will add three new intelligence squadrons to its ranks in the next two years. The commander of the service’s Space Operations Command said the squadrons will add more intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities to the military branch. It will also add to the Space Force’s cybersecurity.
  • The Pentagon says it’s appointed a new senior official to coordinate the collection of data about what the military calls “unidentified aerial phenomena” — what most people would call UFOs. Testifying before Congress yesterday, DoD’s top intelligence official also said the department wants to “destigmatize” the issue and encourage pilots to report anything unusual they see in the skies. A DoD report last year cataloged more than 100 reports of objects seeming to move in ways that can’t be immediately explained by normal laws of physics, but added that almost none of the cases are accompanied by enough data to draw conclusions about what actually happened. (Federal News Network)
  • Lawmakers press for progress on federal cybersecurity measures. In the year since President Joe Biden signed an expansive cybersecurity executive order, agencies have made strides in adopting key defenses like multifactor endpoint detection and recovery. But some lawmakers pointed out agencies have also missed some key deadlines during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing yesterday, like for adopting multifactor authentication. Federal Chief Information Security Officer Chris DeRusha says agencies have made progress, but challenges remain. (Federal News Network)

Related Stories