September 13, 2022

Agriculture Department IT workers vote to join a union

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Trump administration officials are dusting off Schedule F and agency relocation plans ahead of a second term for the former president. Former Trump administration officials speaking at the America First Policy Institute summit said they would resurrect the executive order from Schedule F in the second term, which would make tens of thousands of members of the federal government…

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  • Trump administration officials are dusting off Schedule F and agency relocation plans ahead of a second term for the former president. Former Trump administration officials speaking at the America First Policy Institute summit said they would resurrect the executive order from Schedule F in the second term, which would make tens of thousands of members of federal employee labor at will. President Joe Biden repealed this executive order during his first week in office. Former President Donald Trump himself has said that underperforming federal authorities are too hard to fire. Trump said, “Congress should pass historic reforms empowering the president to ensure that any corrupt, incompetent, or useless bureaucrat for the job can be told – have you ever heard that – ‘You’re fired. Get out, you’re fired.'” (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs had planned to remodel its infrastructure, but a new plan is looming. VA Senate Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the BUILD Act, which sets out a 10-year vision for the agency to modernize its health care facilities. The bill would require a fixed schedule for the disposal or repurposing of unused and vacant buildings. Tester and 11 other senators recently rejected plans to nominate candidates for the Assets and Infrastructure Review Committee, which would do much of that work under the 2018 MISSION Act.
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved nominees to lead two of the Army’s combatant commands. The committee voted in favor of Army Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton as the next head of United States Special Operations Command. Also endorsed is Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Langley, head of U.S. Africa Command.
  • Thrift Savings Plan participants have seen customer service wait times drop from two hours to fifteen minutes. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board said it was making dramatic improvements after adding 500 more customer service representatives. Participants encountered a series of issues after an update to the TSP on June 1. Tee Ramos, a trustee on the board, said he was hopeful about the timeline for a return to normal. “Optimally, we will return to some degree of normality in mid-August. All of our numbers are moving closer to normal,” Ramos said. The council received nearly a million phone calls from participants in June .(Federal News Network)
  • A group of Department of Agriculture remote information technology employees voted to unionize. About 800 computer workers chose the American Federation of Government Employees as their union representative, winning a vote of about 70%. AFGE said that since employees work remotely across the country and have limited contact with each other, they are particularly prone to negative workplace practices. The union said it has used phone banking, text messages and virtual meetings to create better relationships between workers.
  • The army opens a new preparatory school in hopes of attracting more recruits. While the job market remains tight, the army is struggling to recruit. The service has already reduced its planned final strength for 2023 in response. Now the service is introducing a preparation course for those who cannot meet the standards to enter basic training. The course will have two tracks, one to improve academics and the other to improve physical fitness. Recruits who have up to 6% body fat above Army standards can join the program. The Army said it plans to help recruits lose 1-2% body fat per month until they are ready for basic training. (Federal News Network
  • The new Commander of the Coast Guard is a woman and now women have more opportunities to serve on more ships. The Coast Guard has entered new waters. In recent months, the number of women serving on small cutters has roughly equaled the number on larger vessels, over 210 feet. Officials said that’s because it’s only recently that recapitalization dollars have reached small cutters. They mostly now have separate male and female berths. Even the 65-foot river dinghies have had their bulkheads redone to accommodate women.
  • A new House bill would make what the sponsors call major changes to how Veterans Affairs handles whistleblower complaints of reprisal. This would deprive VA of its power to handle complaints internally and refer them to the Office of Special Counsel. The bill is sponsored by the leadership of the Veterans Affairs Committee Inquiry Committee: Chairman Mike Pappas (DN.H.) and Ranking Member Tracey Mann (R-KS).
  • The Pentagon’s Cyber ​​Contractor Assessment Program is set to take a major step forward. Teams of Pentagon officials and third-party evaluators will assess contractor cybersecurity compliance on a voluntary basis beginning Aug. 22. This will be the first time that third-party assessment organizations will be involved in the cybersecurity assessment of contractors. Voluntary assessments serve as a warm-up for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Program. Companies that pass a voluntary assessment will be able to use it when the Department of Defense begins requiring CMMC in contracts. That could happen as soon as next spring, but the DoD still has to go through formal regulation first.
  • In Hawaii, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service arrested a longtime Coast Guard veteran and his wife, alleging they had been living under false identities for decades. Prosecutors say Walter Primrose and Gwynn Morrison took on the identities of children who died in Texas decades ago. They say Primrose used this fake identity to join the Coast Guard in 1996 and eventually got a secret security clearance. Prosecutors said they also discovered decades-old photos showing Primrose and his wife wearing KGB uniforms. These photos are part of a court filing that asked a federal court to hold the couple without bond, but did not directly charge them with espionage activity. The charges were first reported by The Daily Beast.
  • Federal agencies have achieved historic levels of success with small business contracting. Agencies smashed the government’s goal of awarding at least 23% of all contracts to small businesses last year. The Small Business Administration said small businesses received 27% of all contracts in 2021. Isabella Casillas Guzman, the SBA administrator, said 21 agencies received an A or A+ on the agency scorecard. small enterprises. “This represents $154.2 billion in contract dollars for small businesses across the country, which is $8 billion more in our economy than in previous years. This is a new record for the federal government,” Guzman said. (Federal News Network)
  • The General Services Administration has extended the deadline for proposals for its government-wide acquisition contract for small business Polaris. The GSA has given small businesses an additional 10 days, until August 19, to submit bids for this IT services GWAC. At the same time, NITAAC has received some good news regarding its impending government-wide CIO-SP4 acquisition contract. The Government Accountability Office ruled in favor of NITAAC on a protest offer from Precise Federal Consulting. The GAO said it found the CIO-SP4 solicitation to be unambiguous as argued by Precise. NITAAC plans to award seats under CIO-SP4 later this year.
  • Small businesses vying for federal contracts now have two additional options for demonstrating qualified past performance. A new Small Business Administration final rule allows companies to show the past performance of a joint venture or first-tier contractor hired under an outsourcing plan. Under the first option, the small business can use past or current joint venture agreements as long as they outline the contracts they have performed and identify the responsibilities the small business has assumed. Under the second option, the small business can ask the contractor for a rating of its subcontractor’s past performance. The contractor must provide a rating within 15 calendar days.
  • As much of the country grapples with sweltering summer temperatures, agencies are setting up a new online resource to deal with the extreme heat. The White House announced the launch of Heat.gov this week. It includes up-to-date heat forecasts from the National Weather Service, a new health and heat tracker run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and heat planning and preparation guides. The website is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture has developed 13 new climate adaptation plans for the agency’s climate vulnerabilities. The plans are an update to the October 2021 strategy. The plans identify climate risks and prioritize actions to integrate climate adaptation into current operations and future plans. The agency has released individual climate plans for six vulnerabilities, including agricultural production and conservation; rural development and marketing and regulatory programs. Another of the vulnerabilities – natural resources and the environment – ​​will solve a backlog of reforestation of four million acres of national forests and plant more than a billion trees over the next decade.