Members of Congress are urging a change to what they say is an exclusionary definition of infertility in the Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) program. The Office of Personnel Management's current definition of infertility dates back to 2015, and House Democrats said it precludes members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as single individuals, from accessing the FEHB's full range of benefits, particularly assisted reproductive technology. OPM defines infertility for a single individual as the inability to conceive after six cycles of artificial insemination. Lawmakers said the arbitrary number creates inconsistent and unequal coverage for FEHB participants who may use alternative methods of conception. The definition is especially critical, since starting in 2024, all FEHB carriers will have to cover artificial insemination and related drugs, as well as the cost of drugs for in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The members of Congress call on OPM to immediately update the definition of infertility in FEHB's program guidance.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is getting help from the Defense Department in the aftermath of the Maui wildfires. Joint Task Force 5.0 is coordinating the DoD response under one command. In addition to National Guardsmen, Pacific-based Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are helping with emergency response efforts. They offer support in logistics, search-and-rescue, fuel distribution, and transportation of people and goods in support of operations led by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The next step in the cybersecurity journey for regulated companies: harmonization. Agencies from the Energy Department to the Transportation Security Administration to the Treasury Department have been issuing cybersecurity regulations over the last year or so, focused on their specific sectors of oversight. Now it is time to bring them together through a new harmonization effort by the White House's Office of the National Cyber Director. ONCD issued a request for information asking 73 questions with a goal of identifying regulatory conflicts, inconsistencies, redundancies, challenges and priorities. The possible end result would be an updated baseline of regulatory requirements that would apply across critical infrastructure sectors. Comments on the RFI are due October 31.
In failing to properly notify Congress of the funding used for a 2019 relocation of two major research facilities, the Government Accountability Office has determined that the Agriculture Department violated the Antideficiency Act. The department otherwise acted legally, GAO said, but the relocation during the Trump administration still led to rapid staff attrition and a major loss in workforce productivity. In light of the new legal review, Virginia Democrats are pushing Congress to take up their bill, the COST of Relocations Act. The bill says any agency planning to relocate would have to conduct and publish a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the proposed move before carrying it out.
In the coming weeks, many vendors in the 8(a) program will have to put on their creative writing hats to stay in the small business development program. The Small Business Administration will require a written narrative to establish the owners' "social disadvantage." SBA detailed new rules for vendors to continue to take part in the 8(a) business development program on Friday. SBA made these changes after the District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee's ruling on July 19 that SBA had to stop using the presumption of social disadvantage to administer the 8(a) program. SBA said it will contact companies today either seeking a narrative or clarifying that the participant already established social disadvantage.
Federal agencies can give the General Services Administration excess personal property so it can have a chance of being reused. GSA has streamlined its Personal Property Management System from seven websites to just one, in an effort to increase use, as well as to reduce federal waste. GSA said it is now faster and easier for federal customers to manage and dispose of personal property and visitors can have a more user friendly experience. Such property can include furniture, computers, vehicles and luxury items.
The National Treasury Employees Union announced its disaster relief grants are now available through the Federal Employee Education Assistance fund. The NTEU Disaster fund provides grants to help employees who belong to NTEU and who have needs not covered by insurance and temporary lodging. This extra help becomes more important today for federal employees forced to evacuate due to severe weather in Maui and other areas that may have experienced natural disasters. Employees who apply should save their receipts to submit with their applications. To apply or donate to the fund visit the FEEA website at FEEA.org.
The Defense Department is looking for some help from outside organizations for its cyber workforce qualification program. DoD wants private companies, academic organizations or non-profits that can provide certification, training, courses or formal education to submit an application to be part of the program. The qualification process for the DoD cyber workforce will include information technology, cybersecurity, cyber enablers, cyber effects, data and artificial intelligence, and software engineering. Organizations applying to be accredited as part of the qualification program will assess an individual cyber worker's skill level and his or her work role.