AFGE expresses fears about future telework cuts for Social Security employees

  • Agency grades under the 17th iteration of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act scorecard dropped across the board. At first glance, the FITARA scorecard looks like most agencies all took a step back with their IT modernization efforts. But the results of 17th iteration of the scorecard can't be compared to previous grades. GAO's Carol Harris, the director of cybersecurity and IT, said the decrease in the grades was driven by the cloud computing category." It is brand new and it is something that we have not had a focus on relative to the scorecard, so the grades were low in this category," Harris said. Harris and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) praised agency progress over the last decade to improve how they manage IT.
  • For the first time ever, labor and management officials at the Federal Housing Finance Agency are heading to the bargaining table. Better pay equity and a formal grievance process are top of mind for members of the new bargaining unit at FHFA. After 91% of employees voted to unionize last year, the National Treasury Employees Union became the representative for 500 agency staff members. They are hoping an official contract will help with what has been years of declining employee engagement. The union leaders are now heading into negotiations with agency management officials. They expect to finalize the first-ever collective bargaining agreement later this year.
  • Just this week, the Social Security Administration announced cuts to telework for employees at agency headquarters. In response, the American Federation of Government Employees said it is concerned what the future will hold. The recent return-to-office announcement from Commissioner Martin O'Malley did not change telework for the field office workers that AFGE represents. But the union said it is still worried about the possibility of more cuts going forward. AFGE is calling on the agency to commit specifically to practices that will maintain and expand telework for employees.
    (Statement on SSA return-to-office announcement - American Federation of Government Employees email)
  • The National Institutes of Health is planning to replace its decades-old legacy Electronic Health Record. NIH’s Clinical Center, the nation’s largest clinical hospital, is looking to secure funding in the next six months and start the acquisition process for a new EHR. The agency has been using its legacy EHR for more than 20 years. Jon McKeeby, the chief information officer for NIH’s Clinical Center, said the agency needs a health record that can keep up with the pace of emerging technology, like artificial intelligence. "Now we have all the tools to make it so we can be more visual, interact with it, but also have it create summaries, and also predictive models to help us in health care,” McKeeby said.
  • Agencies have until midnight to shut down software that has been hit with dangerous cyber vulnerabilities. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is directing agencies to disconnect any affected Ivanti products by the end of the day on Friday. CISA had already told agencies to patch the software in an emergency directive issued last month. But this week's directive said agencies need to shut down the Ivanti products and take several steps before reconnecting them. CISA said hackers could use the vulnerabilities to move laterally within networks to steal data and infiltrate other systems.
  • The United States European Command is seeking federal employees and government contractors to participate in its first-ever AI Battle Lab BRAVO hackathon. The secret-classification level event, sponsored by the Defense Department, will use data collected from a recent department-wide exercise to calibrate and develop weapons systems, tactics and military strategies. This is the first time BRAVO is organizing a hackathon around an exercise. Applicants must have a security clearance to participate. The event takes place from March 18 through March 22 at the Air Force Warfare Center near Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Participants are encouraged to apply immediately due to limited space.
  • The Labor Department's new rule requiring contractors and subcontractors to first offer jobs to employees previously employed under the predecessor contract is coming under fire. House Small Business Committee leaders said Labor may have underestimated the amount of time required to comply with the December rule, called the Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts. Committee Chairman Roger Williams (R-Texas), and three other Republicans, said the rule disproportionally impacts small companies. The lawmakers said the rule creates multiple time-consuming and costly requirements, such as notices to affected workers, possible location-continuity notices and successor contractor’s mandatory offer letters. The committee wants answers to five questions by Feb. 15.
  • The Defense Department is developing guidelines for securing AI systems and data within the department. The DoD CIO’s new Risk Management Framework control overlay focuses on properly securing the training data, the inputs, the outputs and the AI models themselves. Unlike other Risk Management Framework overlays offering more compliance guidance, this overlay is less prescriptive. The ultimate goal is to provide security guidance for the overarching AI environment. David McKeown, DoD’s chief information security officer, said the overlay is a little vague about what to look for and how to secure the AI environment, but it is a step in the right direction.
  • House lawmakers are calling on President Joe Biden to nominate new members to the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, since two spots opened up in January. House Oversight and Accountability Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and more than 80 House members, said USPS needs leaders who will put an end to the agency’s higher rates for mail and packages. USPS raised the price of a first-class stamp to 68 cents last month. The board currently has two vacancies. Members Lee Moakand William Zollars stepped down from the board after their terms expired in December.

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