September 13, 2022

The Department of Agriculture plants the seed of fairness

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A federal Agriculture Department advisory committee will soon share updates on its upcoming priorities. At a meeting open to the public, the committee plans to provide more details on the USDA’s goals for its new equity commission. The commission was created as part of the White House’s efforts to strengthen fairness across the federal administration…

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  • A federal Agriculture Department advisory committee will soon share updates on its upcoming priorities. At a meeting open to the public, the committee plans to provide more details on the USDA’s goals for its new equity commission. The commission was created as part of White House efforts to strengthen equity in the federal workforce. Registration for the public meeting is open until August 4, and the committee will hold the seminar virtually on August 5.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology updates critical cybersecurity standards. NIST is seeking public input before making changes to the Special Publication “Securing Unclassified Controlled Information in Non-Federal Systems.” These are the same standards that form the basis of the certification requirements for the Pentagon’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model, the CMMC program. Other federal agencies also require their contractors to meet NIST cybersecurity requirements. The trade agency is accepting comments on what it might change regarding the standards until mid-September.
  • La Poste is setting the bar higher for the electrification of its vehicle fleet. USPS said it will now buy 25,000 electric vehicles under its 10-year next-generation fleet contract with Oshkosh Defense. That’s half of his total order under the contract. USPS also plans to purchase more than 34,000 ready-to-use commercial vehicles over a two-year period. Of the more than 84,000 total vehicles the USPS plans to buy, at least 40% of them will be electric. (Federal News Network)
  • It’s a tough time to be an army recruiter. With just over two months to go, the Army is only halfway to its 2022 recruiting goal. Officials said that was largely due to the tight labor market which also affects private employers. But that will likely mean a smaller active duty army in the near term. In their 2023 budget, officials had already lowered their final strength target from 485,000 troops to 473,000. Now, officials said, they will be lucky to keep 455,000 people in the force. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has dropped plans for its final electronic health record launch in fiscal year 2022. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the agency is postponing the go-live of its new EHR Oracle-Cerner in Boise, Idaho on July 23 as scheduled. “It was a decision made by the project team, in consultation with all of our expertise at VHA.” McDonough said. VA officials told the VA Senate Committee that the EHR is not yet ready for deployment in larger, more complex VA installations due to system stability issues. The EHR has experienced 24 outages and 48 degradation events since first going live in October 2020. (Federal News Network)
  • More Coast Guard employees will now be able to get tuition assistance. The Coast Guard is expanding its education policy to include civilian employees for the first time since 2013. Employees can earn up to $45,000 each year for career-related degrees or certifications. These include a first or second associate’s degree or a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The program will pay the costs up front, so there will be no need for reimbursement. To use the program, civilian employees must remain in Coast Guard employment for one full month for each credit hour.
  • Agencies might just want to factor lessons learned from the pandemic into future office space plans. Agencies have until December 16 to tell the Office of Management and Budget how much office space they will need in the future. Upcoming “capital plans” for agencies will cover fiscal years 2024 through 2028. The OMB told agencies that their plans must align with the White House budget request and reflect changes to telecommuting and work-from-home. hybrid work in the wake of the pandemic. (Federal News Network)
  • An investigation found that a US Fish and Wildlife Service employee obtained COVID relief funds using false documents, then gave incorrect information to the inspector general’s office. The Home Office’s IG office discovered that the employee’s partner had applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans on his behalf, based on his reported income from a travel business and driving for Uber. But the employee told the IG office that she hadn’t generated any customers for the travel industry and had never driven for Uber. The employee repaid the PPP loans in full, after investigators spoke to her for the first time.
  • Critical federal computer systems would be subject to penetration testing requirements under the new House legislation. A bill introduced by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California) would also require agencies to report to Congress on their proactive cyber methods, such as continuous network monitoring. The legislation also called on the White House’s new cyber director to iron out any conflicts arising from overlapping agency authorities. Swalwell’s bill was referred to the Oversight and Reform Committee, as well as the Armed Services Committee.