Defense workers receive ethics reminder from DoD secretary

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  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reminds military and DoD employees of the department’s ethical values. In a two-page memorandum published on Tuesday, Austin set out his expectations of members of the Defense community. They included completing an annual ethics training by the end of November and evaluating the Pentagon’s work processes to prevent fraud, waste and abuse.
  • Agencies will find little good news in the Government Accountability Office’s biennial high-risk list. GAO added two new general topics to the list this year: the Small Business Administration’s emergency loan program and national efforts to prevent, respond to, and recover from drug abuse. The Department of Defense, however, managed the reduction in its infrastructure and facilities program, and the GAO removed the DoD’s real estate footprint from the list this year. Five federal programs have declined since 2019, including federal human capital management. The GAO said human capital challenges and skills gaps in the federal workforce are behind 22 items on the high-risk list. (Federal Information Network)
  • While the Pentagon’s shortcomings are still a healthy part of GAO’s high-risk list, at least the list is at least getting a little shorter. For nearly a quarter of a century, the DoD’s management of its more than $ 1,000 billion worth of real estate and facilities has been on the risk list. GAO finally removed it in this year’s update. The chief government watchdog said the Pentagon has made clear progress in identifying and tracking its real estate, clearing unused space, and reducing support costs. The DoD is still responsible for several other areas on the last high-risk list – most of them relating to financial and program management. (Federal Information Network)
  • The Office of Personnel Management has its annual to-do list for federal health insurance providers. Mental health, surprise billing and the COVID-19 pandemic are all priorities for OPM in 2022. The agency is starting to negotiate the benefits and rates of its carriers under the Federal Employee Health Benefits program. OPM is asking insurance companies to start making preliminary preparations to reduce surprise billing. The OPM also said the pandemic is accelerating the need for insurance companies to cover more mental health services.
  • Industry is reviewing for the first time a new government-wide multi-award service contract. The General Service Administration has published a request for information offering its first reflection on the BIC-MAC. This is the first step in a two-year process to replace the OASIS government-wide professional services contract. The GSA plans to hold an industry day in April and then publish a second RFI in May. The draft call for tenders is expected in the fall. Responses to the initial RFI are expected on March 17.
  • The Management and Budget Office said it was time to go back to the status quo on diversity and inclusion training. The OMB has new guidelines for agencies, now that former President Donald Trump’s order banning certain types of diversity and inclusion training is repealed. The OMB said agencies should tell entrepreneurs that they will not be investigated, expelled or sanctioned for conducting certain types of diversity and inclusion training. And agencies should remove any contract language for this purpose. The Department of Labor will also stop enforcing compliance by contractors with the Trump Ordinance.
  • The military academies are grappling with problems in the student body. Principals are now presenting plans to address the issues. Sexual assaults, fraud scandals and suicides have all rocked military academies in 2020. Not to mention the relocation of online courses for some time due to COVID-19. School principals said they were strengthening honor codes, interviewing students and changing their approach to discipline. The question is whether it will work and how fast. The Naval Academy is also fighting against climate change because the school is resistant to frequent flooding at high tide. The superintendent said the school was considering building dikes or dikes to mitigate the flooding. (Federal Information Network)
  • The Aviation adds new attributes that allow aviators to describe themselves, or aspire to, after passing a career development self-assessment test. The test is part of the MyVector program, which gives Airmen resources to improve their working lives, and can match them with a mentor. “Digital Literacy” and “Fosters Inclusion” are the most recent attributes the program will use to describe some Airmen. Digital literacy refers to the critical use of technology. Fostering inclusion means creating a culture where people are free to make their fullest contributions.
  • How to forget the great pandemic of 2020 and 2021? Well the Library of Congress wants to make sure no one will. The library said several of its divisions have assembled materials that document the pandemic, now approaching the one-year mark in the United States. The archive includes photographs and illustrations inspired by COVID-19 and the conditions it caused, as well as geospatial data and maps showing the scope of the virus and maps of its mutations. The library’s copyright office has removed some of the many COVID-related applications it has received.
  • The CIOs of health agencies do not see any hindsight in the face of pandemic transformations. Department of Health and Human Resources CIO Perryn Ashmore said remote working was a relatively easy lift for HHS. But the pandemic has turned his job into part of the emergency response. Its 300-employee office now monitors the condition of 800,000 hospital beds across the country, as well as the provision of personal protective equipment to frontline workers. It has also removed some barriers to sharing data with other agencies. “Now that we’ve done it and know how to do it, we’re going to continue this work,” Ashmore said. (Federal Information Network)
  • The Department of Justice make data on the processing of data from Freedom of Information law agencies more publicly available. DOJ’s Information Policy Office updates with an agency-by-agency review that receives the most FOIA requests and how quickly those requests are processed. This information on the website is taken from the annual reports of FOIA agencies submitted to the Attorney General. The OIP said it had received FOIA reports for FY2020 from nearly 120 agencies.
  • A Familiar Face takes over a major component of the Department of Homeland Security as the Chief Information Officer. Sonny Bhagowalia has been DHS’s permanent CIO for Customs and Border Protection, the Federal News Network has confirmed since mid-February. He had been acting CIO since June, when Phil Landfried left after almost three years. This is the fifth time that Bhagowalia has become CIO in the federal and state sectors. He has been the senior chief technology officer in the Treasury, Home Affairs, and the State of Hawaii. Bhagowalia arrived at CBP in 2018 where he oversaw network and bandwidth improvements that allow CBP employees to securely connect devices and obtain data through the cloud. (Federal Information Network)
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