Defense officials say some military service members who refused COVID-19 vaccines could still face discipline, even though the vaccine mandate has been rescinded. DoD’s top personnel official told Congress yesterday the military services are reviewing each case, partly because some of the troops involved may have committed other misconduct. Department statistics show 8,400 military members were discharged for failing to follow a lawful order after they declined the vaccine. Congress ordered DoD to rescind the vaccine mandate as part of this year’s defense authorization bill.
Congressional auditors are raising red flags about the Department of Homeland Security’s ongoing financial systems modernization. The Government Accountability Office said the Coast Guard needs a remediation plan for the troubled rollout of its new financial management system. And GAO warned similar efforts at other DHS components will face problems if they do not rectify their issues. Homeland Security officials have agreed to address GAO’s latest recommendations.
Health is health and mental health is part of health. That's the message Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said every service member should know. In a push to expand mental health services, the Defense Health Agency added close to 60,000 mental health appointments though the telehealth system last year. Speaking at Georgetown University on Tuesday about the state of the all-volunteer military, Hicks also said DoD has hired thousands of prevention workers to counter sexual assault, sexual harassment and self-harm issues.
The National Treasury Employees union is calling for major legislative changes for the federal workforce. NTEU is pushing for an 8.7% pay raise, expanded paid leave and maximum telework policies for federal employees. But the road ahead in Congress may be challenging, according to NTEU National President Tony Reardon. "We have a bit of a hostile leadership in the House. They've already gone after IRS funding and federal telework programs," he said. Despite predicting challenges, NTEU leaders said they intend to work with all members of Congress to advocate for the union's legislative priorities.
The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board said it is making continuous improvements, after a difficult recordkeeping update for the Thrift Savings Plan last summer. The board is, for instance, making more historical information available in My Account, as well as encouraging participants to use more self-service options. The TSP's customer service center has also maintained above an 85% satisfaction rating for several months. The board said it is taking additional steps, such as creating a new voicemail inbox and staffing-up support teams, to try to solve individual TSP participant issues more quickly.
The National Archives has a plan to eliminate the veterans records backlog. The National Archives and Records Administration said it will finish processing a backlog of overdue veterans records requests by this December. In a new plan, NARA said the backlog has already been reduced by about one-third from a peak of 600,000 last March. The backlog and subsequent processing delays stemmed from pandemic-induced staffing limits at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. It has prevented many veterans from getting the service records they need to access federal benefits.
The Postal Service has committed more than a billion dollars for a mostly electric next-generation fleet. USPS is awarding contracts to purchase more than 9,200 commercially available electric vehicles and install EV charging stations across the country. The agency is also buying 9,200 gas-powered vehicles to replace its current fleet of aging delivery trucks as soon as possible. USPS is spending more than a billion dollars on the commercial vehicles and $260 million on the charging stations. USPS also plans to buy 66,000 custom delivery vehicles from Oshkosh Defense. At least 75% of those will be electric.
Do you have any ideas on how to improve service at the IRS? The agency wants to hear them. The IRS is looking for volunteers to serve on its Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. The panel makes recommendations to the IRS and Treasury Department on ways to improve IRS service and customer satisfaction. The IRS is looking for applicants who can commit up to 300 hours of their time during the year. The panel includes members from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The White House is taking a big step to strengthen DoD's supply chain resiliency. President Joe Biden signed a waiver on Tuesday allowing the use of the Defense Production Act for several critical supply chains. One priority: government-owned industrial facilities that produce munitions used by DoD. The facilities need to be modernized to increase capacity and maintain, overhaul and repair weapon systems and equipment. The waiver identifies other critical supply chains including electronics, minerals and materials, and power and energy storage. The authority authorizes DoD investment in strategic areas like workforce development.