State Department employees suffering from mysterious condition now have an avenue for financial help

In today's Federal Newscast, the State Department outlines how employees suffering from so-called Havana Syndrome can qualify for compensation.

  • The Marines opened their first new base in 70-years last week on Guam. The Pacific island will eventually host five thousand Marines. Japan helped pay for Camp Blaz, in order to move the Marines off the Japanese island of Okinawa. A Marine Corps press release said the base officially opened last Thursday. It is part of the National Defense Strategy to strengthen strategic forces in the Indo-Pacific region. The decision to move the Marines to Guam was part of a 2012 bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Japanese governments.
  • The Navy closed down four dry docks in Washington state after a study determined they were at risk for earthquake damage. A recent study of seismic activities and its effects in the area found vulnerabilities at the shipyards. A Navy statement says work at the dry docks will be paused while a team of experts evaluates the risks. The dry docks are located in Bremerton and Bangor and service fast attack and ballistic missile submarines. The two shipyards are close to a major fault line that runs from Canada to California.
  • The State Department outlines how employees suffering from so-called Havana Syndrome can qualify for compensation. The State Department has finalized a rule implementing the 2021 Helping American Victims Affected by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act. The final rule specifies employees are eligible for compensation if they experienced an anomalous health incident that led to a brain injury and required at least 12 months of medical treatment. The condition first emerged in 2016, with 40 U.S. embassy staff in Havana, Cuba reporting dizziness, tinnitus, visual problems, vertigo and cognitive problems. Those same symptoms have since been reported by personnel in China and other overseas posts.
  • Agencies have had mixed success in increasing federal workforce diversity. That’s according to the Government Accountability Office’s latest report on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. GAO said the Intelligence Community, for example, has somewhat closed workforce diversity gaps. But the proportions still fall below agency benchmarks. Additionally, a gender pay disparity still exists in the federal workforce, but it’s lower than the nationwide pay gap. And although agencies exceeded goals for hiring people with disabilities, the workforce turnover is high. GAO said agencies should work to enhance accountability for their DEIA workplace goals.
  • Most chief human capital officers say their agency is successfully hiring recent grads. The majority of agency CHCOs say student and recent graduate hiring authorities help improve candidate quality. But only half say that the authorities help with hiring timeliness. That’s according to a survey from the Merit Systems Protection Board. The MSPB added that the most common federal hiring challenges include convincing hiring managers to use new authorities, as well as the length of the hiring process, and competition with the private sector.
  • The Veterans Affairs Department provided permanent housing to more than 40,000 veterans experiencing homelessness in 2022. That surpasses the VA’s year-end goal by more than 6%. The agency helped veterans find affordable housing through subsidies, and also by reuniting them with family and friends. The VA said the total number of veterans experiencing homelessness has decreased by 11% since January 2020. The total number of homeless veterans since 2010 has decreased by more than 55%.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency lays out plans for a key public-private partnership in 2023. CISA’s Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative will lead efforts to update the National Cyber Incident Response Plan this year. The plan lays out roles for both agencies and private sector entities when responding to a major cyber crisis. The JCDC will also focus on securing open source software used in industrial control systems. The collaborative, which includes CISA, other agencies, and major tech and cyber companies, will convene to kick off its 2023 agenda in the coming weeks.
  • There’s a new lawmaker in charge of a key cyber panel. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) will serve as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on cybersecurity and infrastructure protection. Garbarino served as ranking member of the subcommittee during the last session of Congress. He said he’ll focus on working closely with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and on strengthening partnerships between the public and private sectors.
  • House Republicans on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are filling out more leadership positions. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Penn.) will oversee federal building issues as chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management. Perry said his priorities include holding the Biden administration accountable and avoiding wasteful spending. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) will also serve as chairman of the subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
  • FEMA picks a familiar face to be their new chief information officer. Charlie Armstrong is coming back to the Department of Homeland Security. The long-time technology executive, who spent more than 30 years with the Customs and Border Protection directorate, is the new CIO at FEMA. Armstrong left government in 2016 after serving as the CBP CIO for seven years. Since leaving government, he ran his own consulting firm. Armstrong replaces Lytwaive Hutchinson, who left in in April after three years as FEMA’s CIO.

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    FILE - Tourists ride classic convertible cars on the Malecon beside the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba, Oct. 3, 2017. The CIA believes it’s unlikely that Russia or another adversary are broadly using directed energy to attack hundreds of U.S. personnel who have reported brain injuries and symptoms that have come to be known as “Havana syndrome.   (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)

    State Department employees suffering from mysterious condition now have an avenue for financial help

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