Hundreds of federal employees deployed to help with Hurricane Ian

In today's Federal Newscast: GAO lifts the veil to show hundreds of federal employees were being prepped for easier firing under Schedule F. The nominee to be t...

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  • The Biden administration is deploying at least 1,300 federal employees in response to Hurricane Ian, which made landfall on the west coast of Florida on Wednesday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is leading a federal search and rescue with personnel from the Coast Guard, Defense Department and Interior Department. The Army Corps of Engineers has also stationed 300 personnel to support power and fuel assessments as soon as the storm passes.
  • A few agencies took steps toward reclassifying some federal employees to Schedule F, before the executive order was revoked. In the few months that the Schedule F executive order was active, the Office of Management and Budget had plans to move well over 100 positions to the new job classification. Although never officially implemented, the request would have impacted more than 400 OMB employees. The Government Accountability Office reported that only OMB and the International Boundary and Water Commission had actually requested to reclassify workers under Schedule F. But 13 other agencies were communicating about potential implementation. The now-rescinded executive order would have made feds classified as Schedule F easier to fire.
  • The Labor Department is finding a way out of its technical debt. Labor cut its technical debt by 15% over the last six years. The agency now spends $218 million on development, modernization and enhancement efforts out of its $826 million IT budget. Labor Chief Information Officer Gundeep Ahluwalia wrote in a new blog post that this change in spending patterns is opening the door for the agency to modernize new services across several mission areas, including using virtual reality, to train mine safety workers. Ahluwalia said his goal is to cut Labor’s technical debt by another 15% in the coming years.
  • The White House’s pick to lead the National Archives hit a roadblock. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee failed to favorably report Colleen Shogan’s nomination to be National Archivist after a 7-7 vote along party lines yesterday. Republicans on the committee accused Shogan of being partisan over her past writings. Shogan is a former Senate and Library of Congress staffer. She currently works at the White House Historical Association. Despite yesterday’s outcome, she still has a path to confirmation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) could discharge Shogan’s nomination from the Homeland Security committee and bring it to the full Senate for a vote. (Federal News Network)
  • Vendors on the General Services Administration schedule facing extreme supply chain disruptions have until October 3 to fix them or risk suspension. GSA told schedule holders that if they have scores of 50% or below on at least 11 line items on the bi-weekly shipped-or-backlog report, they will be considered non-compliant and suspended from GSA Advantage and GSA eBuy. GSA said it is not canceling these companies’ contracts, but giving them 90 days to fix the problems or their catalogs will be removed from GSA Advantage.
  • The Veterans Affairs Department said it is too soon to know if a vendor update resolved issues holding up future rollouts of its new Electronic Health Record. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said it remains unclear whether a single fix to an unknown queue problem with its new EHR system is enough to fully address the concerns of VA employees and patients. The problem, as documented by the VA inspector general’s office, has led to thousands of clinical orders disappearing in an unmonitored inbox, causing patients to miss follow-up care. The vendor Oracle said it provided a fix to the unknown queue in August, but McDonough said VA is still looking to determine the full scope of its EHR challenges. “I think that concern is significant enough that we’re not talking about a single, discrete issue that would suggest a single discrete fix,” McDonough said. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies have a new service available to help defend their networks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency rolled out a Protective Domain Name System offering this week. Protective DNS blocks users and organizations from reaching malicious websites used by hackers. The service is also intended to give agencies more visibility into activity on their networks. CISA spent the last few months beta testing the service and is now onboarding agencies across the civilian executive branch.
  • Federal Executive Boards are one step closer to getting more stable funding from Congress. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced bipartisan legislation to authorize the 28 FEBs that exist across the country. Senators who support the bill say it would improve coordination among agencies. Without stable congressional funding, though, the senators said FEBs are at risk of shutting down. FEBs play a role in preparing the government to respond to public emergencies, and developing the federal workforce.
  • The Veterans Affairs Department and the Food and Drug Administration have teamed up to accelerate innovations in the field of medicine. FDA staff will work side-by-side with VA employees at the VA Ventures Innovation Institute in Seattle. There, FDA workers will focus on evaluating benefits and risks of new products, while VA workers will provide a clinical context for development. They hope that this will provide medical innovators an opportunity to test their products in a cost-effective manner throughout the development cycle.



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