Four federal agencies must provide documentation on how the COVID-19 vaccine mandates were developed and implemented. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), Chairman of the Select subcommittee on the Coronavirus pandemic, has opened an investigation into Executive Order 14043, which he suggests was "coercive" and "an overreach." The EO required federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face potential termination. Heads of the Departments of Defense and Labor, Office of Personnel Management and Health and Human Services, must hand over communications and guidance used to craft vaccine policies. President Joe Biden revoked the Executive Order on May 9 of this year, some two years after it was implemented in September 2021.
The disaster relief process could get a whole lot simpler under legislation that is moving forward in Congress. Under a bill passed by the Senate last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be tasked with developing a universal application for people seeking federal assistance to recover from natural disasters like severe storms, floods and wildfires. Agencies currently use multiple disaster assistance forms that often take weeks and even months to process. In addition to the universal form, the Disaster Assistance Simplification Act would allow FEMA to share information on disaster survivors with other agencies to help streamline recovery efforts and reduce paperwork burdens on survivors.
With the exception of the fixed-income index F fund, Thrift Savings Plan funds were all in the black in July. The returns, however, were not as high as they were in June, for the most part. The government securities investment G fund was the only fund with a higher return in July than in June. As was the case in June, all funds are posting positive year-to-date returns. All but the F fund are in the black for their 12-month returns.
The Office of Personnel Management is offering more resources to federal interns. Whether interns stay in government for three months, three years or three decades, OPM is taking steps to revamp the federal internship program. At a joint event this week, Education Department Secretary Miguel Cardona offered a group of interns some early-career advice. "Don't limit yourself to your current goals. Be open-minded. I would also say, don't change your stripes. Right now, I feel like I'm making a difference, staying true to my core values and what I wanted to do, which was serve," Cardona said. The event is part of a broader experience program from OPM, first launched earlier this summer, that offers workshops and other events to governmentwide interns.
(Hybrid intern experience event - Office of Personnel Management)
Version 3 of the General Services Administration's small business GWAC continues to win over agency customers. The 8(a) STARS III governmentwide acquisition vehicle surpassed $1 billion in total obligations across 600 task orders in just two years. GSA said in the two years since awarding the contract, agencies continue to benefit and 8(a) firms continue to thrive. GSA said out of the 309 small firms to have received a task order so far, it was the first one for 177 of them. Additionally, 37 agencies have used the IT services GWAC so far, and GSA has trained more than 2,600 acquisition professionals from 54 agencies to receive delegation of procurement authority training.
The State Department’s upcoming AI strategy is looking to build workforce trust in emerging tools. The department sees its first enterprise AI strategy as a follow-up to its enterprise data strategy and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s broader plan to modernize U.S. diplomacy. The department is already using AI tools to help its workforce declassify diplomatic cables and other sensitive documents. Gio Altamirano Rayo, the State Department’s chief data scientist and responsible AI official, said the upcoming strategy will focus on how the department can field AI tools in a way that builds trust among the department’s workforce. “That's going to guide our implementation of AI in a way that's responsible,” Rayo said.
The American Federation of Government Employees is urging Congress to take action on a bill that would let employees deduct union dues on their federal income taxes. The Tax Fairness for Workers Act would allow deductions for certain employee expenses, including job-search costs, travel and more. AFGE said the bill would both support unionized workers and restore tax-system fairness. The House version of the bill currently has 158 co-sponsors and the Senate version has 39.
The Army takes a step forward in implementing a “bring your own device” program across the service. Hypori Halo will serve as the new enterprise capability for the Army, Army National Guard and reserve service members. Halo will allow soldiers to securely access NIPRNet, email, Microsoft Teams and CAC-enabled websites from their personal mobile devices. Last October, the Army kicked off a “bring your own device” pilot with Hypori with 20,000 initial users. It connects personal devices to a commercial cloud environment where data is stored.
In an effort to support mental health and wellness for Airmen and Guardians, the Air Force started a new cross-functional team aimed at making health services a little more user friendly. The team will work to break down barriers to mental health care and help service members and their families get access to peer support programs, wellness resources and post-suicide analysis. The team will include members from Department of the Air Force staff, Air Force major commands and Space Force field commands.
One of the Energy Department's premier research institutions is getting a new leader. Stephen Streiffer was announced as Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s new director last week. He will start his new job at the lab in Tennessee in October. Streiffer currently serves as interim director at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. He had spent 24 years at Argonne National Laboratory in the nation's capital, where he helped lead DOE’s response to COVID-19 during his time as deputy director for science and technology.
You have no doubt heard that the State Department is taking longer than usual to issue or renew passports, as it faces a major backlog of applications. Now lawmakers are asking the Government Accountability Office to get to the bottom of these delays. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is leading more than a dozen of her colleagues in calling for the GAO to investigate. Lawmakers are asking GAO to study the root causes of these delays and whether the department has the workforce and technology it needs to issue passports in a timely manner. The department, meanwhile, said it will return to pre-pandemic passport processing times by the end of the year.