Red Sea chaos jacks up relocation costs for feds around the world

In today's Federal Newscast: The White House is widening the rule prohibiting employers from asking potential employees about their salary history. Cloud infras...

  • The Postal Service has outlined its plan to cuts billions of dollars of costs and build up revenue to avoid running out of cash. USPS is looking to grow its package business, which competes with private-sector shippers, by at least $3 billion. The agency also plans to keep raising prices on its monopoly mail products to bring in $2 billion of additional revenue lost from continuing declines in mail volume. USPS is also looking to cut $5 billion from its operating costs. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is telling the White House and Congress that implementing these plans is necessary to keep USPS from running out of cash in the coming years.
  • Rebel attacks on vessels in the Red Sea are causing chaos of all kinds in the commercial-shipping world. For instance, other than the financial impacts on the Defense Department's role in defending trade routes, the General Services Administration said it has seen big cost increases in the rates agencies need to pay to move federal employees’ household goods from one country to another when they relocate. That is mostly because of routing changes to keep ships out of the conflict zone. GSA said it is temporarily adjusting its household goods moving program, meaning agencies will pay the higher rates shipping companies and ports are now charging.
    (Advisory in Response to Re-routings via the Red Sea - General Services Administration)
  • The White House is widening the rule prohibiting employers from asking potential employees about their salary history. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Federal Regulatory Council's proposed rule and policy would ban federal contractors and subcontractors from seeking and considering information about job applicants' pay history when making employment decisions. Advocates contend the ban will help address pay discrimination, and may be a step toward closing pay gaps based on gender and race. Additionally, contractors and subcontractors would be required to disclose the salary they are offering in job announcements. The proposed rule and policy follows the issuance of the final regulations by the Office of Personnel Management on Monday applying these rules to federal agencies. Comments on the proposals are due by April 1.
  • Pay, child care, housing, health care and spousal employment all remain major issues for military members. But any big improvements may still be years away. Any changes in defense spending that Congress decides to make won't be seen until fiscal 2025, at the earliest. A House panel has spent the better part of a year considering ways to improve quality of life for military personnel. Now DoD officials have just made what may be their final pitch for support before that panel puts together its plan for improvements. They will be considering higher compensation, better housing and more. Still, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) cautions DoD leaders to have some patience. “We may not be able to pay for everything in one budget cycle, but we’re going to work hard with our appropriators and come up with a strategy to get this right,” Bacon said.
  • The military’s major cyber force may be in line for some big changes. A team at U.S. Cyber Command is studying an important question: How should the command’s forces be generated and organized in the future? The study is due to Congress by June 1. Outgoing CYBERCOM Commander Gen. Paul Nakasone said one of the major issues is how quickly military forces move in and out of the command. He said the cyber domain requires a longer dwell time. Nakasone retires this week after nearly six years in charge. His replacement is Air Force Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, CYBERCOM’s deputy commander.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency is increasing mental health resources for its employees. For the first time in its history, FEMA said it licensed mental health professional positions in all of the agency’s 10 regions and Puerto Rico. Those professionals provide education, training and wellness services. FEMA also said it is making progress across all facets of its strategic plan, including by streamlining the disaster assistance application process and addressing challenges for people with disabilities.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is calling on all nature lovers to join its workforce. EPA has launched a week-long recruitment campaign, targeting scientists, writers, program managers and more. At the same time, EPA said it will focus on hiring younger and more diverse talent. EPA aims to onboard 1,000 new employees in the next year. That includes trying to hire 350 federal interns.
    (“Be EPA” recruitment week - Environmental Protection Agency)
  • Cloud infrastructure providers are getting new cybersecurity requirements. Cloud service providers with foreign resellers will have to do more to know their customers and provide that information back to the U.S. government. As part of the executive orders on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, the Biden administration is proposing new rules to require cloud infrastructure providers to implement and maintain Customer Identification Programs. The Commerce Department, which is leading this effort, said the requirements are to address the risk of foreign malicious actors using U.S. cloud services to harm U.S. critical infrastructure or national security, including the training of large artificial intelligence models. Commerce is accepting comments on the proposed rule through April 29.
  • The office of the under secretary of defense for research and engineering will focus on biomanufacturing this year. The Defense Department will release a request for proposal today for the distributed bio-industrial manufacturing investment program. Heidi Shyu, the Pentagon’s under secretary of defense for research and engineering, said the request for proposal will promote new investments in biomanufacturing and advance President Joe Biden’s goals to build a sustainable bio-economy. President Biden signed an executive order on advancing biotechnology and biomanufacturing innovation, in which he tasked the Defense Department with assessing how biotechnology could strengthen the country’s supply chains.
    (DoD releasing RFP for bio-industrial manufacturing investment program - 10th Annual Defense R&D Summit | Potomac Officers Club)
  • Lawmakers are pushing for better mental health care for pregnant and postpartum service members. Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) want to launch a pilot program providing evidence-based mental health support to military mothers. The Maintaining Our Obligation to Moms Who Serve Act would be among other quality-of-life proposals expected to be released this year. The bill would attempt to help reduce the rates of poor mental health among new mothers in the military, thus potentially improving military readiness. The legislation sets the price tag for the program at $25 million.
  • The Postal Service is telling its employees to complete this year’s heat safety training well ahead of summer. USPS is giving employees until March 15 to finish their mandatory training, as part of its Heat Illness Prevention Program. The training is available on the agency’s HR website, but facility managers are responsible for presenting the training to bargaining unit employees who do not have computer access. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined USPS last year, following the heat-related death of a letter carrier in Dallas, Texas.

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