Agency leaders trying to get along better with federal employee unions

In today's Federal Newscast, some agency leaders are taking a closer look at improving cooperation with unions.

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  • Some agency leaders are taking a closer look at improving cooperation with unions. Tim Curry, a workforce leader at the Office of Personnel Management, said transparency is key to strong labor-management relations. After a new union task force made recommendations to the Biden administration, the group now looks for ways to implement its goals. The task force, for example, recommends managers and unions work together before actions from the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Earlier collaboration can save money and improve efficiency, Curry said.
  • Uncertainty over return-to-office plans took a toll on results of the Best Places to Work. Employee satisfaction dropped 4.5% in the 2021 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings. The results, compiled by the Partnership for Public Service, showed a decline in employee satisfaction for most large agencies. That’s except for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which saw a slight increase. NASA remains the number one best place to work for the 10th consecutive year. The Government Accountability Office ranks first for midsize agencies, and for small agencies, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation topped the charts. (Federal News Network)
  • The Justice Department is turning the Bureau of Prisons over to a new director who has a history of reforming organizations and innovation. Attorney General Merrick Garland selected Colette Peters, who has been the director of the Oregon Department of Corrections since 2012, to lead the BOP. While at Oregon, Peters was known for improving employee health and wellness and reducing the use of segregation for adults in custody to transform environments inside correctional facilities to be more humane and reflective of the outside community. She has more than 30 years of experience in public safety. Peters replaces Michael Carvajal, who is retiring after 30 years with the bureau.
  • A Postal Service regulator fired its chief data officer following his felony arrest. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said Russell Rappel Schmid, the Postal Regulatory Commission’s first chief data officer, was arrested Monday by the San Diego Harbor Police Department, and charged with allegedly arranging to meet with a minor for lewd purpose. He was in San Diego attending a conference. Rappel Schmid was booked into San Diego Jail and released on bail early Tuesday morning. The Postal Regulatory Commission said it learned of the arrest and terminated his employment immediately. (Federal News Network)
  • The Postal Service workers delivered more packages on time during the third quarter. On average, it only took two-and-a-half days to send mail across the country. The agency delivered 93.5% of First-Class mail on time, almost a 6% increase from the second quarter. Postal workers also delivered marketing mail and periodicals on time more often than the previous quarter. A part of USPS’ 10-year plan is to deliver 95% on-time service performance for all mail.
  • A Customs and Border Protection headquarters unit  wants to hire hundreds of new personnel. CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility aims to bring on 300 new criminal investigators, analysts, and professional staff by September 2023. The Office of Professional Responsibility oversees the law enforcement agency’s compliance with corruption, misconduct and mismanagement policies. The office’s headquarters are in Washington, D.C., and it also has field offices nationwide.
  • The Senate confirmed Ashish Vazirani as the next Defense Department deputy undersecretary for personnel and readiness. Vazirani was previously the executive and CEO of the National Military Family Association. He has also served as a member of the National Academies of Sciences’ Engineering and Medicine Committee on the Well-being of Military Families. Vazirani will serve under Defense Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros.
  • The military’s career intermission program now has more incentives for service members to try new opportunities. Congress only recently codified the career intermission program into law, but the Defense Department is already making a big change. Service members who take time off to go to school or care for a loved one will only have to serve one month in repayment for every month they take off. In the past, service members had to stay in the military an extra two months for every month off. The new policy may lead more people to sign up for the program. DoD started the program in hopes of giving its employees more career flexibility and building troops with more diverse experiences.
  • The Air Force is beefing up the visibility of its financial resources as airmen are dealing with the effects of inflation. The service sent out an online toolkit of resources airmen can use to ensure their financial stability. Some of those include temporary lodging expense extensions for moving service members, financial readiness programs and grants to help with food costs.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is bringing back the National Veterans Golden Age Games in-person, after two years of hosting them virtually. This event was established to motivate veterans to commit to fitness by complementing VA’s rehabilitation programs. According to Air Force veteran Linda Morgan, the Golden Age Games saved her life by motivating her to stay active. The games kick off on July 18 and run for six days.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is looking for technologies that can address weaknesses in software. DHS’ Science and Technology directorate is partnering with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on a new software effort. The directorate has put out a call for software supply chain visibility tools. The solicitation is particularly focused on finding solutions for Software Bills of Material, or SBOM tools. Proposals are due by Oct. 3, and DHS is hosting a virtual industry day to discuss the technology effort on July 14.
  • Transparency and accountability of federal spending data is at a all-time high. More than eight years after the DATA Act became law, agencies are demonstrating a lot of progress in managing their spending data. The Government Accountability Office reviewed audits of 57 agencies and found 27 had excellent data quality and 18 had higher quality data. At the same time, GAO said agencies’ financial and award data were more complete than they were accurate or timely. Additionally, while many agencies submitted data on time, they also had challenges linking financial and award data. One other common challenge auditors found was in control deficiencies, such as those related to data-entry errors, validation and reconciliation procedures.
  • The Energy and Commerce Committee is requesting an update from the Food and Drug Administration on their plans to strengthen food safety efforts. The committee’s letter seeks more information about the FDA’s food safety inspection and coordination activities. Those efforts have come under criticism after recent formula shortages and reports of contaminants in common foods like peanut butter, fruits and cheese. The bipartisan letter asked the FDA to provide a plan for assessing the agency’s ability to execute its responsibilities and for making changes to strengthen the food safety response. They’re also asking for a timeline and what additional resources the FDA needs from Congress to implement the plan. Foodborne illness affects 1 in 6 Americans each year making about 48 million people sick and killing 3,000.
  • The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Reform Committee seeks to protect 2030 Census planning from political interference. Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation that would only allow for the removal of the Census Bureau’s director for cause. It would also codify into law existing committee charged with ensuring the scientific integrity of 2030 Census planning. The legislation would also require the Government Accountability Office to determine if new questions added to the census follow generally accepted statistical procedures

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