Senate committee continues scrutiny of sexual harassment claims against VA DEI office

In today's Federal Newscast: The Senate VA committee continues its pointed scrutiny of sexual harassment claims against the VA DEI office. The government’s to...

  • The first snow storm in the Washington, D.C. area in two years closed federal offices across the region. The Office of Personnel Management called for maximum telework to be in effect with telework and remote workers expected to work. Those workers are ineligible to receive weather and safety leave. Emergency workers were also required to report to their offices. The National Weather Service said total snow accumulation by early this morning ranged from 2-to-4 inches in the DMV and that roads were particularly icy, as the temperature dropped into the low-20s.
    (OPM closes DC area federal offices - Office of Personnel Management )
  • More lawmakers are demanding answers from the Department of Veterans Affairs over its investigation of sexual harassment claims. The Senate VA Committee is asking the department what personnel changes and what corrective actions it will take. The VA is investigating allegations that leaders within its Office of Resolution Management, Diversity & Inclusion sexually harassed subordinates. Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said VA cannot tolerate any harassment in the workplace. The VA expects to complete its internal investigation by the end of the month. But the House VA Committee issued a subpoena last week demanding more records from the investigation.
  • The government’s top official on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility is stepping down. In May 2022, Janice Underwood became the first person ever to serve as governmentwide chief diversity officer. She will move to the private sector to be vice president of DEI talent outreach and development at Disney. In the meantime, the Office of Personnel Management is expected to search for another senior leader to step into the position.
    (Janice Underwood to step down - Office of Personnel Management email)
  • Concerns about the SEWP VI contract from NASA have risen to a new level. NASA is facing new scrutiny over its decision to change the small business size standard for its SEWP VI governmentwide acquisition contract. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) and Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) wrote to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson seeking a staff-level briefing and answers to two specific questions regarding the space agency's decision to use a revenue-based size standard. The Republican lawmakers said the proposed NAICS code would limit small business’ ability to bid on task orders without compromising their size status. A NASA spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the letter and its goal is to ensure more than 60% of SEWP VI dollars are awarded to small firms.
  • The State Department’s efforts to make cybersecurity part of its diplomatic mission appear to be off to a good start. The Government Accountability Office finds the department’s new Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy is meeting several key goals. Those include having a strategic workforce plan in place, developing a recruitment and hiring strategy and making sure it has the resources it needs from the department to meet its mission. The department launched the bureau in April 2022.
  • The Senate will take up a bill today to keep the government open through early March. Senate appropriators will introduce a substitute to the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2013, that would include provisions to extend the current government funding to March 1 for the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and related agencies, and to March 8 for the rest of the government. Government funding for the first set of agencies runs out Friday at 11:59 p.m.
  • The Army is in the midst of standing up its Army Unified Directory Services. The goal of the directory is to set the foundation for the Army’s unified network. Maj. Gen. Christopher Eubank, the commander of Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, said that the effort will allow service members to use the same device and the same account regardless of where they are located. The service plans to complete the Army Unified Directorate Services by the end of fiscal 2024.
  • The Army has just soft-launched its “innovation exchange” at the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. The innovation exchange is a cloud-based offering where industry partners can bring solutions for the service’s unified data reference architecture and determine their compliance. Jennifer Swanson, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for data, engineering and software, said the service is still working through the process before opening it up, but they expect to fully launch by next month. The innovation exchange will be available to all industry vendors.
  • Agencies will have as many as seven new mitigating or aggravating factors for officials to consider in suspension and debarment actions under a new proposed rule to the Federal Acquisition Regulations. The FAR Council said among the seven new factors are whether the contractor brought the problems to the attention of the government and whether the vendor has already investigated the potential wrong doing and made the results of that analysis available to the government. The council is adding these new considerations as part a new effort to better align procurement and non-procurement procedures on suspension and debarment. Non-procurement procedures cover grants, cooperative agreements, contracts of assistance, loans and loan guarantees. Comments on the proposed rule are due by March 11.

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