New lawsuit filed on behalf of Air Force members with religious objections to COVID vaccine mandate

In today's Federal Newscast, a federal lawsuit has been filed against the Defense Department on behalf of members of the Air Force seeking religious exemptions ...

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  • The American Federation of Government Employees returns to the negotiating table for the largest union contract in the federal workforce. AFGE is sitting down with management at the Veterans Affairs Department to resolve three contract provisions that both parties have yet to agree on. AFGE is calling on the VA to allow putting employees on performance improvement plans before facing discipline. The union is also seeking language to ensure Title 38 employees like nurses and physicians receive an equal share of performance-based pay awards and incentives.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency emphasizes diversity for hiring cyber specialists. CISA includes underserved communities from start to finish when hiring for federal cyber jobs. As part of its goal, the agency partners with historically black colleges and universities to try to cultivate more interest in cyber from those groups. But CISA’s Cyber Education and Training Lead Toni Benson said generating interest is only the beginning of the process. “You have to be able to help cultivate it at the early part, but then you have to be able to actually get them jobs when it’s all said and done. It’s not enough just to start an initiative. How does it feed all the way into the workforce?”
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said more work is needed to promote diversity in management levels of the federal workforce. White males make up the majority of the Senior Executive Service, with the most recent data showing that they comprise 52.7%. In a new report, EEOC also said federal sector discrimination complaints have declined, but agencies still spent a combined total of more than $100 million in 2019 on settlements, investigations and monetary benefits for discrimination findings.
  • The State Department has a new top human resources official. Ambassador Marcia Bernicat is sworn in as the director general of the Foreign Service and director of global talent. Bernicat served more than 40 years as a career member of the Foreign Service. Her previous roles include Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and Senior Official for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment. She served as an ambassador to Bangladesh, to Senegal and Guinea Bissau.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services is adding the lens of environmental justice to how it tries to keep citizens healthy. HHS launched a new Office of Environmental Justice yesterday to integrate these concepts across all agency mission areas. The office will focus on training to build an environmental justice workforce and creating a departmentwide strategy. In building on President Joe Biden’s January 2021 executive order on climate change, HHS is seeking to use these approaches to improve health in disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations across the nation.
  • The top U.S. spy agency issues new guidance to ensure intelligence agencies don’t infringe upon the privacy and civil liberties of Americans of Chinese descent. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is recommending spy agencies expand unconscious bias and cultural competency training for personnel involved in intelligence collection and security clearance processing. The office is responding to congressional concerns that intel agencies could violate the rights of Chinese Americans. ODNI is also exploring whether to release demographic metrics regarding the length of time and the results of security clearance processes.
  • The Energy Department lays out a five-year plan to boost cybersecurity in the U.S. manufacturing industry. DoE’s Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute’s new five-year roadmap is backed by $70 million in federal funding. The institute’s plans include expanding on secure engineering architectures and identifying cyber vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure. The institute’s plan said the goal is to ensure new clean energy systems and other digital manufacturing technologies are built securely.
  • The Interior Department tees up a billion dollar cloud broker contract. Interior wants to move to a broker approach to manage its multi-cloud environment. Interior released a draft solicitation seeking industry feedback for its Cloud Hosting Solutions 2 contract, which has a $1 billion ceiling over potentially 11 years. Interior wants to hire a contractor to manage and implement task orders for all types of cloud services. The draft RFP says this new contract would put the bureaus in control of how, when and where they wish to receive services based on a more standard and efficient approach. Interior will hold an industry day for vendors on June 15 and feedback on the draft solicitation is due by June 24.
  • The Navy said it is relieving the head of Naval Legal Service Command from her job. Capt. Amy Larson and executive officer Lt. Col. Bret Swaim were taken off duty for a loss in confidence in their ability to command. They were taken out of their positions after an assessment of the command’s climate. Neither person was involved in misconduct.
  • A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Defense Department on behalf of members of the Air Force seeking religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The suit was filed by the non-profit First Liberty Institute and the law firm Schaerr Jaffe LLP. The organization said the plaintiffs are part of the 2% of Air Force service members who have not been fully vaccinated based on religious objections.
  • As the nation continues to see high inflation rates, the Defense Department is reinforcing its policy on unexpected costs in contracts. The Pentagon is sticking to many of its current rules for how it will cover unexpected costs as prices for goods and services increase. In a new memo, the Defense Department said it will take on the burden of unexpected price increases in certain contracts like cost reimbursement agreements and fixed-price incentive contracts. Other methods are not as simple. Firm fixed-price contracts put more of the burden on businesses to carry increased costs. However, DoD said it is taking questions from companies in those situations about possible adjustments. (Federal News Network)

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