BLM workers elect to join federal employee union

In today's Federal Newscast, employees at the Bureau of Land Management's headquarters vote to receive union coverage.

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  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has fully reopened all its offices to employees. Those include its headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, Dallas, Denver, Detroit and San Jose. This marks the third phase of USPTO’s office reentry plan. The agency has also resumed some in-person events and appointments for the public. USPTO is following COVID-19 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and only requires visitors to wear masks in locations with a high level of community risk.
  • Employees at the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters vote to receive union coverage. In a 116 to 20 vote, BLM workers elect the National Treasury Employees Union to represent them. 200 employees are now the second BLM bargaining unit with NTEU. They join their counterparts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which the union has represented for two years. NTEU says employees organized in part because the Trump administration relocated facilities in 2020. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has since reversed that decision.
  • The National Federation of Federal Employees calls on the White House to give all federal wildland firefighters an across-the-board pay raise. Through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, some firefighters’ salaries will go up either by $20,000, or by half of their base salary. But, the legislation only applies to areas where it’s difficult to recruit and retain wildland firefighters. NFFE says critical staffing shortages for firefighters exist nationwide. The union is asking the administration to expand the act to cover all wildland firefighters.
  • The State Department’s inspector general’s office raises favoritism concerns within Foreign Service promotion boards. Employees at an office within the State Department’s human resources bureau frequently awarded family members, friends and acquaintances with paid positions on Foreign Service promotion boards, according to a recent IG report. The IG’s office found individuals closely connected to employees at the Bureau of Global Talent Management’s Office of Performance Evaluation served on Foreign Service Selection Boards every year from 2014 to 2021 — in some cases, multiple times. Some of these individuals were paid tens of thousands of dollars. The IG’s office began its work in 2020 following a whistleblower complaint. (Federal News Network)
  • A crucial panel for federal employees now has, not only a quorum, but a complete roster. For the first time in years. After months of hold-up, the Senate has confirmed Cathy Harris as the third member of the Merit Systems Protection Board. She’ll also be the board chair. The vote was 48-46 along party lines. Two other members were confirmed last month, after the board went vacant for nearly three years. Board members must decide on some 3,500 cases representing appeals to administrative law judge decisions lodged by agencies or employees.
  • Federal law enforcement agencies will take a close look at recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention practices under a new executive order. President Joe Biden’s EO on effective, accountable policing directs the Office of Personnel Management to convene an interagency working group to strengthen federal law enforcement personnel practices. It directs OPM and agencies to pay particular attention to promoting an inclusive, diverse, and expert law enforcement workforce. The order calls for the working group to publish an action plan within the next year.
  • Top Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are telling the IRS to get ahead of their paper-based workload for next-year’s filing season. Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and committee member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) urge the IRS to put 2D barcodes on paper tax returns for next year’s filing season. The National Taxpayer Advocate says this technology would greatly reduce the work IRS employees need to put into processing those returns. Paper tax returns make up a small fraction of the total number of returns the IRS receives in a year, but have led to backlogs at the agency.
  • Agencies looking to deploy 5th generation wireless technology have some new security guidance. The 5G Security Evaluation will help agencies think through the all-important “authority to operate” process. It was developed jointly by the Department of Defense and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The five-step process lays out how agencies can evaluate their 5G systems and identify potential security requirements. Vincent Sritipan is section chief of CISA’s cyber quality service management office. “The key thing is, there has to be a common way to look at this and understand the policies,” he said. “And we’re not talking about new ones, but existing things like the risk management framework.” (Federal News Network)
  • Defense industry groups are advocating for a larger Defense budget for 2023 after seeing current inflation numbers. The Aerospace Industries Association is asking Congress to keep funding for the Defense Department at three to five percent above inflation levels. If current rates stay as they are, then Congress will need to bump up the president’s defense budget request, which only assumes about a two percent rate of inflation. The National Defense Industries Association is advocating for the same considerations. Both organizations are also asking Congress to deliver funding on time to reduce waste.
  • The Veterans Affairs Department is putting a call out for innovators to help them develop new suicide prevention strategies for veterans. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said that they need to use every tool available in order to end veteran suicide. Submissions from 40 teams will be selected receiving awards ranging from $100,000 to $3 million. Participants will have access to a collection of open data, surveys and reports on veteran suicide prevention as they write their concept papers. Those interested should submit concept papers to VA by July 8.
  • The FCC hires 14 companies to help with their next phase of IT modernization. The FCC was one of the first agencies to move its infrastructure to the cloud. Now it’s embarking on an application modernization effort. To do that, the FCC awarded 14 companies a spot on its Application Development Support Service blanket purchase agreement. The five-year contract has a $203 million ceiling. Under the IDIQ type contract, the FCC is asking these 14 winners to provide program and project management support, software and application development and support and enterprise micro-services development. The goal under this BPA is to improve the FCC stakeholders’ experience in meeting business requirements and improving the coordination of service delivery with other FCC contractors.
  • The Senate pushes forward a new bill to try to prevent organizational conflicts of interest among government contractors. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the Preventing Organizational Conflicts of Interest in Federal Acquisition Act Wednesday. The legislation is in response to concerns over McKinsey and Company’s alleged conflict in advising the FDA and drug companies at the same time. The new bill would require agencies to identify potential conflicts for specific contracts early in the process. Federal contractors would be required to disclose other business relationships with entities that conflict with the specific work that an agency has hired them to do.
  • The Energy Department is launching a pilot to decarbonize four of its 17 National Laboratories. DOE labs in Idaho, Colorado and Washington, as well as the National Energy Technology Laboratory with locations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Oregon, will participate in the program. The Net Zero Labs Pilot Initiative was created to meet the Biden administration’s goal to reach net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said that they are leading by example by tackling some of the most energy-intensive and hardest-to-decarbonize federal facilities.

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