New federal telework guidance elicits backlash from House Republicans

In today's Federal Newscast: The President's new federal telework guidance elicits backlash from House Republicans. The Postal Service inspector general’s off...

  • The Biden administration's new federal telework guidance gets backlash from House Republicans. Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said the White House's update on telework is not sufficient to get information from agencies on their return-to-office plans. The new guidance tells agencies to try to balance meaningful in-person work with continued telework flexibilities. Like many Republicans, Comer is calling for a full return-to-office for federal employees who were working in person prior to the pandemic. The Oversight Committee plans to contact agencies to get answers on how many employees are still teleworking.
  • The Pentagon is looking to improve its security processes in the wake of damaging classified data leaks. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is directing a review of intelligence access and security procedures. The under secretary of Defense for intelligence and security will lead the review. The Pentagon is also reviewing intelligence distribution lists and tightening access to highly sensitive data. Austin’s directive comes after the FBI arrested Jack Teixieira, a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman, who’s accused of posting highly classified intelligence documents online. Teixieira was formally charged in court Friday and will appear at a follow-up hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
  • A new training simulator lets the National Guard teach its guardsmen to drive a variety of military vehicles with a higher ratio of students to teachers. Traditional drivers training requires one-on-one instruction. The driving simulator has programs for 40 different vehicles with automatic and manual transmissions. The level of gears is also interchangeable depending on the vehicle. The simulator belongs to the Connecticut National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing at Bradley Air National Guard Base. Since it is the only training simulator of its kind in New England, other units borrow it for their training.
  • The State Department is adding more chief data officers to its ranks. The State Department is ramping up its data-for-diplomacy efforts by naming chief data officers to each of its component bureaus and offices. That initiative includes the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which has the largest global footprint of any law enforcement organization. Diplomatic Security CDO Rachel Wang said the bureau is looking to make better use of its data to protect department personnel and facilities. “Without data sharing, without the interoperability of our data systems, you can't do analytics or more advanced work," Wang said.
  • GSA is bringing in some new executives to the Technology Transformation Service. The General Services Administration is adding some fresh faces to the Technology Transformation Service. Mukunda Penugonde joins TTS as its new deputy director. He comes over from Hulu and Disney, where he was the director of technical program management for the last five years. Additionally, GSA said deputy CFO Mehul Parekh is joining TTS as a senior adviser for operations. Parekh has been with GSA for five years, including the last year-plus as deputy CFO. Both executives join TTS as the organization tries to recover from the trouble brought on by the problems.
    (Technology Transformation Service - Federal News Network)
  • The Postal Service inspector general’s office and the IRS are teaming up to stop tax-refund fraud. Agency investigators are making several arrests in a case where several individuals allegedly filed up to $10 million in fraudulent tax returns. Federal prosecutors say those individuals filed more than 33-hundred fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities, then bribed letter carriers in New Jersey to steal those refund checks from the mail. Most of the defendants have pleaded guilty. One USPS employee received six months of home confinement. A second employee was fired from the agency.
  • A new law will soon require agencies to provide more accommodations to federal employees who are pregnant. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act stipulates that employers must provide options like more flexible hours and better parking to these employees. The American Federation of Government Employees has called the law's passage a victory for pregnant workers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission plans to issue proposed regulations on the law before it takes effect on June 27.
    (What You Should Know About the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
  • The Defense Department has taken a step toward securing its production supply chains by funding the expansion of three plants producing parts for rocket propulsion systems. Aerojet Rocketdyne will get $216 million to expand and modernize its production facilities in Arkansas, Alabama and Virginia. The funds will modernize manufacturing processes, consolidate production lines, purchase equipment, improve data processing and increase delivery speed. The plants produce parts for systems that propel missiles and missile defense interceptors, along with space launch vehicles and national security satellites used in civil and commercial applications.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is pushing technology companies to adopt new secure-by-design principles. CISA, other U.S. agencies and international partners published the secure-by-design and default principles last week. The agencies said manufacturers should prioritize safe coding techniques and other secure principles when designing new technologies and products. While they are not requirements, CISA officials have said they plan to use federal purchasing power to help drive the adoption of the principles.
  • The Government Accountability Offices told Congress it should take 11 legislative actions to strengthen agency efforts to combat fraud. Among those actions are recommendations to amend the Social Security Act to ensure the sharing of SSA's full death data with the Treasury Department’s Do Not Pay system. GAO also suggests that Congress give agency CFOs more authority over all internal controls and specifically those related to spending data and improper payment information. Since 2015, GAO has made 142 recommendations to agencies to improve how they manage fraud risks and 68 have been fully implemented.

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