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A bid to fight the vaccine mandate for federal workers lives to see another day. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said it will reconsider its own ruling from April that allowed the Biden administration to require federal employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The appeals court will re-hear the case, this time before all 17 of its judges. Until then, the court is vacating its earlier ruling in favor of the Biden administration. The legal battle stems from an executive order President Joe Biden signed in September requiring more than 3.5 million federal workers to get vaccinated, with no option for regular COVID testing. (Federal News Network)
House appropriators push for improvements and more transparency in federal retirement services. A committee spending bill for fiscal 2023 requires more oversight for the Office of Personnel Management’s federal employee retirement program. Groups like National Active and Retired Federal Employees said they’re “pleased” with the bill provision, and hope it will elevate the urgency of service delays and call center issues. The spending bill advanced out of the House Appropriations Committee Friday. The Office of Personnel Management is also piloting an online retirement application, while working through a backlog that resulted from the pandemic.
A dozen senators reject the Department of Veterans Affairs’ plans to reshape its real-estate for health care. The senators said they will not proceed with the President’s nominees to serve on the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission. The commission, under the 2018 MISSION Act, is supposed to review the VA’s recommendations from March on how it expects to right-size its real-estate portfolio of medical facilities across the country. The VA proposed closing about three dozen VA medical centers under this plan, but would replace about half of them with new construction. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the MISSION Act still requires the VA to conduct four-year reviews of its real-estate needs in each of its regional health care markets, even if the AIR Commission process falls through. (Federal News Network)
Marijuana restrictions on service members might follow the national trend of becoming more lax. The House version of the 2023 Defense authorization bill holds two provisions that reframe marijuana use and possession. One provision asks the Military Justice Review Panel to draft recommendations for new sentencing guidelines around marijuana. A second measure asks the Pentagon to study using medical marijuana instead of opioids for service members on terminal leave or about to retire.
The Pentagon is setting a course for creating ethical artificial intelligence. The Defense Department said artificial intelligence is imperative to the future of warfare, but many are concerned about leaving life or death decisions up to computers. The Pentagon released its responsible AI plan to implement a set of ethical guidelines it established two years ago. Now DoD is ready to implement those principles. The chief data and AI office will create a set of evaluation criteria for AI and write guidance for how industry can meet DoD’s ethical principles. DoD will also develop a legislative strategy to ensure the chief data and AI office has appropriate messaging and assistance when working with Congress.
The Air Force is looking to create the first University Affiliated Research Center led by a Historically Black College or University and is soliciting HBCUs with high-research activity ratings to apply. The new research center will be focused on tactical autonomy. Air Force officials said the initiative will help establish and maintain essential research and development capabilities for the Department of the Air Force to deliver operationally relevant autonomy. The Pentagon has set aside $12 million per year for five years to fund it.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is going on a hiring spree. CISA has nearly 150 open cybersecurity positions, and it wants to fill them fast. The agency is hosting a virtual hiring fair on June 29, and it’s already received more than 1000 applications. CISA aims to have 100 job offers out the door within two weeks of Wednesday’s event. The agency is also using the Department of Homeland Security’s new Cyber Talent Management System to help streamline the hiring process and offer better pay compared to the General Schedule.
As Pride Month comes to a close, the U.S. Agency for International Development is trying to create a more inclusive environment. Administrator Samantha Power announced a new inclusive development e-module that will be mandatory for all USAID staff. The announcement comes nine days after President Joe Biden signed an executive order advancing LGBTQ equality during pride month. USAID abides by the principles of “do no harm” and “do nothing about them without them” when working worldwide to advance the human rights of LGBTQ people.
Looking for a way to donate food to fight hunger? The Agriculture Department kicked off the annual Feds Feed Families campaign Monday to tackle food and nutrition insecurity across the country. The USDA said hunger is a year-round issue and is asking federal families like yours to donate food from June 27 to September 30. Since its launch in 2009, Feds Feed Families has donated more than 99 million pounds of food to local food banks. In 2021, the drive collected 7 million pounds of food. Your donation this year can contribute to topping 100 million pounds of food donated over the last 13 years. You can donate to the food bank of your choice and can track your donations on the USDA’s website.