Agriculture Department IT workers vote to join a union

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  • Trump administration officials dust off Schedule F and agency relocation plans in anticipation of a second term for the former president. Former Trump administration officials speaking at the America First Policy Institute Summit said they would resurrect the Schedule F executive order in second term that would make tens of thousands of members of the federal workforce at-will employees. President Joe Biden repealed this executive order during his first week in office. Former President Donald Trump himself said poor performing feds are too difficult to fire. Trump said, “Congress should pass historic reforms empowering the president to ensure that any bureaucrat who was corrupt, incompetent or unnecessary for the job can be told – did you ever hear this — ‘You’re fired. Get out, you’re fired.’” (Federal News Network)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department had plans to reshape its infrastructure, but a new plan is coming into focus. Senate VA Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has introduced the BUILD Act, which sets a 10-year vision for the agency to modernize its health care facilities. The bill would require a set schedule for disposing of or repurposing unused and vacant buildings. Tester and 11 other senators recently rejected plans to advance nominees to the Asset and Infrastructure Review Committee, which would do much of this work under the 2018 MISSION Act.
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee approved the nominees to lead two of the military’s combatant commands. The committee voted favorably for Army Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton, to be the next chief of U.S. Special Operations Command. Also approved, Marines Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Langley, as head of the U.S. Africa Command.
  • Thrift Savings Plan participants  have seen customer service wait times drop from two hours, to fifteen minutes. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board said it’s making dramatic improvements after adding 500 more customer service representatives. Participants experienced a range of issues after a TSP update on June 1. Tee Ramos, a director on the board, said he’s hopeful about the timeline to return to normal. “Optimistically we’re going to be to some degree of normalcy in mid-August. All of our numbers are coming close to normal,” Ramos said. The board received nearly one million participant phone calls in June. (Federal News Network)
  • A group of remote information technology employees at the Agriculture Department have voted to unionize. About 800 IT workers picked the American Federation of Government Employees as their union representative, winning in a vote of about 70%. AFGE said since the employees work remotely across the country and have limited contact with each other, they are especially prone to negative workplace practices. The union said it used phone banking, texting and virtual meetings to create better connections among the workers.
  • The Army is starting a new preparatory school in hopes of bringing in more recruits. As the job market remains tight, the Army is hurting for recruits. The service has already lowered its expected end strength for 2023 in response. Now the service is introducing a prep course for those unable to meet the standards to get into basic training. The course will have two tracks, one to improve academics and the other to improve fitness. Recruits who are up to 6% percent body fat above Army standards can join the program. The Army said it plans to help recruits lose 1% to 2% body fat a month until they are ready for basic training. (Federal News Network


  • The Coast Guard’s new commandant is a woman and now women have more opportunities to serve on more vessels. The Coast Guard has entered new waters. Over the last several months, the numbers of women serving aboard small cutters roughly equals the number aboard larger ships, longer than 210 feet. Officials said that’s because only recently have recapitalizing dollars reached the smaller cutters. They mostly now have separate men’s and women’s berthing. Even 65-foot river tenders had their bulkheads redone to accommodate women.
  • A new House bill would make what sponsors call major changes to how Veterans Affairs handles whistleblower retaliation complaints. It would strip VA of its authority to deal with complaints in-house and move them to the Office of Special Counsel. The bill is sponsored by the leadership of the Veterans Affairs Committee’s investigations panel: Chairman Mike Pappas (D-N.H.) and ranking member Tracey Mann (R-KS).
  • The Pentagon’s contractor cyber assessment program is scheduled to take an important step forward. Teams of Pentagon officials and third-party assessors will be evaluating contractor cybersecurity compliance on a voluntary basis starting August 22. That will mark the first time third-party assessment organizations are involved in grading contractor cybersecurity. The voluntary assessments serve as a warmup for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program. Companies that get through a voluntary assessment will be able to use it when the Defense Department starts requiring CMMC in contracts. That could happen as early as next spring, but DoD still needs to go through a formal rulemaking first.
  • In Hawaii, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service arrested a longtime Coast Guard veteran and his wife – alleging they’ve been living under false identities for decades. Prosecutors claim Walter Primrose and Gwynn Morrison took on the identities of children who died in Texas decades ago. They say Primrose used that fake identity to join the Coast Guard in 1996, and eventually get a secret security clearance. Prosecutors said they’ve also discovered decades-old photos that show Primrose and his wife wearing KGB uniforms. Those pictures are part of a court filing that asked a federal court to hold the couple without bail, but doesn’t directly accuse them of spying activity. The charges were first reported by The Daily Beast.
  • Federal agencies have achieved historical levels of success with small business contracting. Agencies crushed the governmentwide goal of awarding at least 23% of all contracts to small businesses last year. The Small Business Administration said small companies received 27% of all contracts in 2021. Isabella Casillas Guzman, the SBA administrator, said 21 agencies received an A or A+ on the small business scorecard. “That’s $154.2 billion in contract dollars going to small businesses across the country, $8 billion more in our economy than previous years. That’s a new record for the federal government,” Guzman said. (Federal News Network)
  • The General Services Administration extended the due date for proposals for its Polaris small business governmentwide acquisition contract. GSA gave small businesses 10 extra days, to August 19, to submit their bids for this IT services GWAC.  At the same time, NITAAC received some good news about its impending CIO-SP4 governmentwide acquisition contract. The Government Accountability Office ruled in NITAAC’s favor on a bid protest by Precise Federal Consulting. GAO said it found the CIO-SP4 solicitation was not ambiguous as Precise argued. NITAAC expects to award spots under CIO-SP4 later this year.
  • Small businesses vying for federal contracts now have two more options for demonstrating qualified past performance. A new Small Business Administration final rule lets companies show past performance from a joint venture or a first-tier subcontractor hired under a subcontracting plan. Under the first option, the small business can use past joint venture agreements or current ones as long as they describe the contracts they performed on and identify what responsibilities the small business carried out. Under the second option, the small business may request a rating from the prime contractor of its subcontractor’s past performance. The prime contractor must provide a rating within 15 calendar days.
  • With much of the country gripped in sweltering summer temperatures, agencies are pulling together a new online resource for dealing with extreme heat. The White House announced the launch of this week. It includes up-to-date heat forecasts from the National Weather Service, a new Health and Heat Tracker maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and heat planning and preparedness guides. The website is maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • The Department of Agriculture has developed 13 new climate adaptation plans for the agency’s climate vulnerabilities. The plans are an update from the October 2021 strategy. The plans identify climate risks and prioritize actions to integrate climate adaptation into current operations and future plans. The agency has released individual climate plans for six vulnerabilities including farm production and conservation; rural development and marketing and regulatory programs. Another one of the vulnerabilities — natural resources and environment — will address a reforestation backlog of four million acres of national forests and plant more than one billion trees over the next decade.

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