Suspension extended for horse-drawn caissons at Arlington National Cemetery

In today's Federal Newscast: OPM boosts awareness for those seeking and those running federal internship programs. HHS is close to finalizing an update to its d...

  • Funerals at Arlington National Cemetery will have to use traditional hearses instead of horse-drawn caissons, at least until sometime this fall. In April, the Army started a 45-day suspension of the use of caissons in funerals. That suspension will now be continued. The Army said it needs to rehabilitate its horses and update its equipment before the caisson platoon, known as the Old Guard, can resume work at the cemetery. Some of the horses need to be retired, and the Army plans to acquire some new horses for the platoon.
    (Army announces extension of suspended caisson support - U.S. Army)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is receiving feedback on an upcoming health insurance marketplace for postal employees and retirees. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) is asking OPM to prevent as much disruption as possible moving nearly two million postal employees, retirees and their eligible family members from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) to the Postal Service Health Benefits Program (PSHB). NARFE told OPM to consider creating a hardship exception that would allow some postal enrollees to continue in their chosen FEHB plan, if that same plan no longer exists in the PSHB.
  • The IRS is bringing in a new, but familiar, federal official to lead the agency’s long-term workforce strategies. Traci DiMartini will step in as IRS’s human capital officer. DiMartini, currently chief human capital officer at the General Services Administration, will take on the IRS role at the end of June after resigning from her GSA position. In the new IRS role, DiMartini's work will likely involve developing strategies to staff up significantly at the agency. IRS set a goal of bringing in 20,000 new hires by the end of fiscal 2024.
  • Agencies are getting more time to collect software security forms from contractors. The White House is extending the deadlines for when agencies need to start collecting forms from software producers that attest to using secure development processes. Previously, the deadline had been today, June 12, for critical software, and September 14 for all other types of third-party software. But in a memo issued Friday, the Office of Personnel Management said the requirements won’t go into place until after a standard attestation form is finalized. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released the draft form in late April, but it remains open for comment until the end of this month.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services is close to finalizing an update to its data management strategy. HHS's updated data management strategy aims to further break down siloes to make data sharing easier. Jennifer Wendel, the HHS deputy CIO, said the new plan focuses on eight areas: data sharing, governance, AI and advanced analytics, integrating business data, integrating human health data, talent and workforce and privacy and security. Wendel said breaking down the data-sharing siloes will take a combination of infrastructure modernization and new workforce skills. Wendel said the updated data management strategy is expected to be released later this summer.
  • The National Park Service, the Agriculture Department's Rural Development, the Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration and the General Services Administration's portal are among the 11 new federal high-impact service providers (HSPI). As part of its third quarter update to the President's Management Agenda (PMA), the Office of Management and Budget said these four agencies are among the first new designees to report on customer feedback. OMB said 23 of the original 35 HSPIs already met this PMA goal. The administration expects all HSPIs to improve how they collect-and-report customer feedback over the coming months.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is taking another step to boost awareness of federal internships. A new portal on OPM's website offers information for both prospective and current interns, as well as details for intern supervisors. The new webpage provides answers to frequently asked questions for all of the different groups. This latest update from OPM is just one of many looking to improve the government's internship program, as well as early-career hiring overall for the federal workforce.
    (Federal internship portal - Office of Personnel Management)
  • A bipartisan Senate bill is looking to help foreign nationals working as U.S. government employees immigrate to this country. The Granting Recognition to Accomplished Talented Employees for Unwavering Loyalty Act (GRATEFUL Act), would cut down a years-long wait for U.S. government employees abroad to immigrate to America. Congress created a specific visa category for foreign nationals with at least 15 years of U.S. government service. But Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said these visa applicants face a current wait time of about 14 years.
    (GRATEFUL Act - Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.))
  • A panel that weighs in on disputes between agency management and unions is one step closer to having a full slate of members. President Joe Biden intends to nominate Nancy Anderson Speight to serve as a third member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). Speight currently serves as deputy assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. The FLRA hears claims of unfair labor practices within the federal government, as well as which parts of federal employee union contracts are up for negotiation. The board has been running with two members since the start of this year.
  • There is a leadership reshuffle underway at Customs and Border Protection. Pete Flores will take over as acting deputy commissioner for the retiring Benjamine Huffman, whose last day will be June 30. And Texas Border Patrol veteran Jason Owens has been named the new Chief of U.S. Border Patrol. Owens is currently head of the Border Patrol sector in Del Rio, Texas. He will replace outgoing Chief Raul Ortiz, whose last day is also June 30. Ortiz’s Border Patrol career spans 32 years, including the last two years at the top of the law enforcement agency.
  • The Government Accountability Office said the Defense Department needs to modernize and replace its software-intensive command-and-control systems for satellites, and that it's behind schedule. A GAO report found replacing DoD's aging command-and-control systems has become even more urgent given current military threats in space. GAO said the command systems for the satellites are not meeting critical requirements for performance and that interferes with the ability to make strategic decisions and meet mission goals. GAO recommends better documentation on the progress and successes of replacing and updating the systems.

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