Forest workers want a little help finding their roots from their agency

In today's Federal Newscast, Forest Service workers press for better living conditions.

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  • Defense Department employees and military service members are one step closer to receiving their biggest pay raise in decades. The House passed the 2023 Defense Authorization Bill that includes a 4.6% pay raise. The House passed the bill 329 to 101. Overall, the NDAA authorized $839.3 billion in discretionary funding for defense next year. In addition to approving the pay raise, the bill includes a provision that would establish a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors.
  • The House completed the first step to stopping a potential revival of the Schedule F concept. Lawmakers passed an amendment yesterday from Congressmen Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) that would limit the ability of a future administration to create a new civil service excepted service. The House passed the amendment 215 to 201 as part of the 2023 Defense Authorization Act. The next step is to see if the Senate will include a similar amendment to its version of the NDAA or, if not, if the provision will survive in conference committee.
  • The House’s annual defense bill now includes an important provision for airport screeners. Lawmakers OK’d an amendment that would put Transportation Security Administration employees under the same pay and benefits system as other federal workers. That includes increasing their pay in line with the General Schedule system. The Biden administration supports the legislation, but the Senate still has to approve it.
  • The Navy is putting some urgency around fixing sailors’ pay. Three four-star commanders of Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and U.S. Pacific Fleet are laying out steps all commanders should take to improve the timeliness and accuracy of sailors’ pay. The leadership issued a joint directive yesterday to add some urgency to growing backlogs and pay delays for sailors receiving their basic allowance for housing, special pay entitlements, permanent change of station travel entitlements, separation pay and retirement pay. The Navy’s goal is to eliminate permanent change of station travel costs and separation/retirement backlog of overdue claims by December. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army’s new Safe to Report policy will protect victims of sexual assault from discipline for minor collateral misconduct. The policy is one of two new initiatives to further remove the barriers to combat sexual assault in the military. The Army is also creating an Office of Special Trial Council. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth established the council, which will report directly to her. OSTC will take over independent prosecution in December 2023. The policy is similar to the new Safe to Report rule the Navy adopted last month.
  • The U.S. Forest Service pressed for better living conditions. The National Federation of Federal Employees says forest workers have to live in their trucks or couch surf because the government doesn’t provide housing in many locations. The union government housing that is available is often dilapidated, forcing employees to make repairs with their own money. Demands include expedited repairs and standardizing requirements like Wi-Fi, heating and air conditioning and waiving rent for substandard housing.
  • The General Services Administration plans to help non-federal governments improve their cloud computing and cybersecurity. Ryan Hoesing of the FedRAMP office and Jonathan Plante, a GSA cloud IT specialist, will host a Zoom session Aug. 2. It’s aimed at state, local, tribal and territorial governments. They’ll learn from GSA how cloud computing can save time and money using GSA contract vehicles. Plus how to work with vendors carrying FedRAMP security certification.
  • A new report says the Log4j software vulnerability isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The Cyber Safety Review Board’s first ever report says Log4j is an endemic vulnerability that will continue cropping up in systems for the next decade. The critical bug was discovered last November, setting off a scramble to patch systems across the government and private sector. The board gave the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency high marks for leading the response to the vulnerability. Now, it says the government can help address future Log4js by requiring federal contractors to meet standards for software transparency. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Homeland Security seeks solutions to software vulnerabilities. The Science and Technology Directorate partnered with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to call on vendors to submit proposals that would help CISA strengthen the assurance of the software supply chain. They are focusing on the fields of finance, transportation, communication and energy. The solicitation deadline is Oct. 3.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General says miscommunications impeded its investigation into electronic health record rollouts. The Change Management Group at VA’s Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization provided faulty or incomplete data to the OIG. This was primarily due to lack of diligence, not a deliberate intent to mislead, the OIG says. But that did cause delays in the OIG’s investigation into problems with VA’s initial EHR rollout in Spokane, Washington. VA is considering administrative action for the two Change Management leaders involved.
  • The Biden administration wants agencies to enhance their collection of LGBTQ data. The president’s executive order in June to advance equity for LGBTQ populations calls on OMB to set up a committee to find opportunities for stronger data gathering. Experts from Census Bureau, HHS, academia and former federal data leaders point to existing surveys from NIH and DOJ. They say decades of existing research can help agencies start gathering better data on sexual orientation and gender identities in hopes of addressing disparities in federal programs or mission areas. (Federal News Network)
  • The Justice Department is making its website about the Americans with Disabilities Act, in a way, more accessible. With help from the 18F office at the General Services Administration, DOJ adds new content to its beta dot ADA dot gov site to cover popular ADA topics. They changed language around service animals, made language easier to understand and reorganized complex information into a cleaner visual design. 18F and DOJ say they will continue to update the site for plain-language content and incorporate user feedback.
  • The Postal Service is consolidating its package shipping offerings. This change comes as the USPS follows their 10-year plan to achieve financial stability and service excellence. USPS filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission to simplify three of their ground shipping options into one enhanced First-Class Package Service product. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said that simplifying these offerings along with other customer experience changes, is making USPS become the best option in the industry.
  • U.S. Customs and Immigration Services fired an analyst at its Wichita, Kansas office. Now the agency is in trouble with the Office of Special Council. OSC lodges a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board, alleging that the firing was whistleblower retaliation. Kenneth Langley had reported that an agency manager released employees’ confidential grievance information, a violation of law. Langley’s action therefore became protected whistleblowing. OSC says agency leadership failed to protect him.

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