Members of the Armed Services will no longer need a COVID-19 vaccine to serve. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sent a memo Tuesday rescinding the mandate, which was put in place in August of 2021. Congress directed the DoD to rescind the vaccine mandate in this year’s National Defense Authorization bill. Over 97% of active duty service members have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19. Austin said he’ll encourage all service members, civilian employees and contractors to get vaccinated and boosted to ensure total force readiness.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) takes over as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. The longtime Congressman previously served as the committee’s ranking member. Rogers has represented Alabama’s third congressional district since 2003. He takes over the chairmanship from Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), who held the post since 2019. Rogers was an original supporter of the Space Force, and also serves on the Committee on Homeland Security. He is the first Congressman from Alabama to hold the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee.
Two new protests will further delay the Air Force’s big IT transformation effort. The Air Force’s enterprise IT as a service program may not get off the ground until April after two unsuccessful bidders filed new protests with the Government Accountability Office. Peraton and Accenture Federal Services said the corrective action the service took after its initial award to CACI fell short. The two companies allege the Air Force’s evaluations of bids were unreasonable. They also claim that CACI should be conflicted out of the competition after hiring former Air Force employees who helped with their bid. GAO has until April 13 to decide the protest. EITaaS is a 10-year contract worth as much as $5.7 billion. (Air Force’s corrective action fails to satisfy unsuccessful bidders for EITaaS contract – Federal News Network)
The American Federation of Government Employees surpassed its goal of recruiting 3,500 new union members every month during 2022, except for last January. The union added its most members in a month in December, with about 4,100 federal employees joining a bargaining unit. But that does not account for membership losses due to retirement, job changes or some feds who simply leave the union. Overall, AFGE had a net gain of about 1,400 members during 2022.
Federal employees will now get more time to provide evidence and get workers’ compensation. Feds who got injured on the job will now have 60 days, rather than 30, to give more information to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. It is an extension that Congress included in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. Providing this time to federal workers is part the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. The Labor Department office has now finalized the rule for federal employees.
The Air Force is putting out the call for innovative technologies to underpin its Advanced Battle Management System. Through its commercial solutions opening acquisition approach, the service is asking vendors to submit white papers detailing cutting-edge software-defined wide-area networking technologies. The SD-WAN technologies will be one piece of a larger network that will let the service continue to operate even in denied, degraded, intermittent and latent (DDIL) network conditions. The Air Force will evaluate the white papers and then fund a three-week test of a limited number of vendors. White papers are due to the Air Force by February 6 and testing would be begin by May.
The Biden administration has fought off a challenge to a higher minimum wage for federal contractor employees. A federal judge in Arizona ruled that the Biden administration was well within its authority to issue an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractor employees to $15 an hour. That minimum wage for federal contractor employees went up to $16.20 an hour at the start of January. Attorneys general for Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska and South Carolina led the lawsuit, on the grounds that federal contractors would reduce staff leading to lower state tax revenue and higher unemployment claims. (Biden administration fends off challenge to higher minimum wage for federal contractors – Federal News Network)
Software security is top of mind at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to start 2023. CISA is planning new projects aimed at uncovering open source software used in critical infrastructure industries. The agency is coordinating the program with the Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology directorate. CISA is increasingly focusing on visibility and transparency in the technology ecosystem. And CISA Director Jen Easterly recently called on leading tech companies to take more responsibility for the security of their products. (CISA, DHS eye open source software use in critical infrastructure – Federal News Network)
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed updated cyber reporting rules for the telecommunications industry. The FCC’s rulemaking aims to cover a broader range of data breaches, while ensuring both the commission and law enforcement agencies are notified about cyber incidents. The FCC also wants to make sure its rules do not conflict with new regulations being developed by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee is getting new leadership. Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) will serve as the committee’s new chairman, after serving as its ranking member in the last session of Congress. Bost is asking the Veterans Affairs Department to turn over documents tied to several of his oversight priorities. That request includes a lifecycle cost estimate for the VA’s new Electronic Health Record, which is scheduled to go live at 25 VA medical centers this fiscal year.