Agencies have four months to develop or modify policies addressing the effects of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking on their respective workforces, according to a Feb. 8 Office of Personnel Management memo.
Agencies will then submit the policies to OPM for review and will be required to issue a final policy within six months.
“The guidance is designed to give agencies the flexibility to tailor their own individual policies to specific agency practices and culture,” OPM director John Berry said in a memo.
From the memo:
To assist agencies in developing their policies over the next several months OPM, in partnership with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and HHS, will offer a series of webinars. Topics will include the impact of domestic and sexual violence on the workplace, the role of employers when responding to domestic violence, sexual assault and/or stalking in the workplace, and the critical components of a workplace response.
Are you a federal or contractor IT professional who’s concerned about job security and workplace morale during these uncertain budget times? Are you considering work elsewhere, or are you hoping for the best and staying put in your current position?
Federal Times would like to hear from you. Contact Nicole Johnson at 703-750-8145 or email@example.com.
While the Transportation Security Administration has made headway in defending against insider attacks, the agency lacks specific policies and procedures to mitigate those threats, according to a recent inspector general audit.
The September audit, released this week, found that TSA has not implemented insider threat policies and procedures that clearly explain its employees’ role in defending against insider threats. TSA also lacks a risk mitigation plan that ensures all employees address the risks of insider threats in a consistent way.
TSA defines insider threat as “one or more individuals with access or insider knowledge that allows them to exploit the vulnerabilities of the nation’s transportation systems with the intent to cause harm,” according to the Department of Homeland Security IG audit. Threats can include spying, release of information, sabotage, corruption, impersonation, theft, smuggling, and terrorist attacks. Insider threats can include current and former employees and contractors.
The report noted that TSA doesn’t have a mandatory insider threat training and awareness program for employees, and it lacks protective measures to ensure unauthorized employees can’t, for instance, dump massive amounts of sensitive data onto a portable storage device.
The IG recommends that TSA’s assistant administrator for information technology:
- Further develop TSA’s insider threat program by including policies, procedures and a risk management plan.
- Require insider threat awareness training for employees.
- Direct systems administrators to disable USB ports on computers and laptops if there is not a legitimate need for them.
- Limit the size of email file attachments until the proper measures are in place to detect or prevent unauthorized exfiltration of sensitive information.
However, TSA said it has developed a directive, currently awaiting approval, that identifies polices and procedures for its insider threat program. The agency stood up a toll free hotline and email address for reporting insider threats and also plans to roll out an insider threat training and awareness program.
The agency said disabling USB ports isn’t feasible but, instead, has an application in place to alert the agency when data is transferred outside DHS networks. TSA also disagreed with any restrictions on email file sizes.
Further discussions between the agency and the IG are required to hash out differing opinions.
In June, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss, and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, questioned TSA’s plans to purchase software that monitors employees’ keystrokes, emails and other online activities as part of a larger effort to defend against internal attacks.
In a response letter, TSA Administrator John Pistole said the software would provide TSA with forensic evidence for investigations should an employee ever be identified as a potential insider threat to TSA’s mission.
In an Oct. 3 response letter to the IG audit, the lawmakers requested a detailed description of TSA’s current spending related to the insider threat, an estimate of the anticipated lifecycle cost of the monitoring software the agency plans to buy, when TSA will have policies, procedures and a risk management plan and other information by Oct. 17.
Veterans Affairs Department employees have had access to one of the government’s best career-development tools since October.
Soon, you may see something like it coming to your agency.
Last week, top VA officials demonstrated the tool — called MyCareer@VA — at a meeting of administration and union leaders.
“When you think about your own career, there are times that you want to figure out how to get ahead, but there are also times that you may feel like you’re stuck and want to do something else,” said VA Deputy Secretary Scott Gould as he presented the website July 18 to a meeting of the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations, led by Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry.
Gould and Alice Muellerweiss, dean of the VA Learning University, said the website helps employees hurdle common career setbacks.
“We know that the number one reason people leave their organizations is because they cannot see their path, they cannot chart their path, they can’t set their goals, and they don’t set up their development plan,” Muellerweiss said.
The website, MyCareerAtVA.va.gov, prompts employees to plug in their skills and experience and then provides them a variety of jobs throughout the department that — with some additional training and education — could be a fit for them down the road.
Among the website’s key features:
- MyCareer Mapping Tool. This searches for jobs across multiple occupational families and outlines what competencies, knowledge areas and skills are needed to reach an employee’s career goal.
- MyCareer Fit Tool. This helps match specific jobs to an employee’s self-identified career interests and work environment preferences.
- VA Career Guides. This offers employees detailed profiles of suggested jobs and offices they might consider as future steps on their career paths. For each job, it outlines what education, licensing, recommended training, and developmental experiences are recommended, based on the user’s profile.
The website is still growing and developing. Its searchable jobs inventory is about 75 percent complete and VA managers aim to get that figure to 100 percent of mission-critical jobs by next April.
OPM’s Berry said some agencies are looking at adopting similar career-development tools and looking specifically at the VA tool as a possible role model.
To learn more about MyCareer@VA, view the video below:
Today marks a milestone for thousands of Senior Executive Service members, general military officers and other top government officials: The onset of new reporting requirements for most stock purchases and other securities transactions worth more than $1,000.
Up to now, such transactions had to be reported only once a year on the public financial disclosure statement known as Office of Government Ethics Form 278. Now, senior officials must file “transaction reports” within 30 to 45 days, under the recently passed STOCK Act.
The new mandate applies to almost all 28,000 Form 278 filers, according to the ethics office, which issued some lengthy guidance last month. You can read it here, but suffice to say there are some big exceptions to the new requirement. It does not, for example, apply to mutual funds, Thrift Savings Plan assets, real estate or accounts held by the employee’s spouse. Folks deployed in combat zones can get an extension.
One idea behind the STOCK Act is to use public disclosure to keep government officials from using insider knowledge for stock trading purposes. As originally envisioned, the main target was Congress. But along the way, someone on Capitol Hill– FedLine is still wondering who—decided that senior military officers and top civilian employees should be covered as well.
The stepped-up emphasis on disclosure doesn’t stop there. By the end of next month, agencies are also supposed to post all Form 278s on the Internet. The Senior Executives Association, which represents career SESers, is already on record as opposing that requirement as an unwarranted intrusion on feds’ privacy; this week, the Assembly of Scientists, which represents some National Institutes of Health staff, released a letter warning that the new provisions could keep NIH from hiring and retaining “the best and the brightest scientists.”
“Many senior employees, faced with diminished privacy rights, are discussing leaving the government for the private sector,” Dr. Florence Haseltine, the assembly’s president, wrote in a letter to Congress. “Colleagues at universities are concerned and less likely to accept positions at national laboratories, thereby putting U.S. institutions at a disadvantage in recruiting and retaining the nation’s most prominent and creative scientists.”
Such concerns notwithstanding, the odds of lawmakers’ repealing or delaying the new requirements appear slim. Employee groups are meanwhile mulling a lawsuit on Privacy Act grounds.
More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition asking the president to issue an executive order ensuring workplace protections for gay federal contractors.
Administration officials will not confirm any action, but Tico Almeida, president of the Freedom to Work advocacy group, said Labor and Justice department lawyers have recommended President Obama issue a policy requiring federal contractors to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Freedom to Work, which seeks anti-discrimination policies for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender workers, created the online petition at Change.org.
More than 16 million employees of federal contractors either work for companies or reside in states that do not provide those protections, according to a February report by UCLA’s Williams Institute, which conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.
Several large contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics, and some states offer specific protections against sexual orientation discrimination, Almeida said. DynCorp International recently added such protections after reports that company officials demoted and transferred an employee who reported being taunted by anti-gay slurs, he said.
Companies without explicit policies prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination may still offer protections for their employees, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president for the Professional Services Council industry association. However, having those policies in place could help the workforce feel better protected, he said.
“It’s an area worth paying attention to,” Chvotkin said.
First, the good news; The percentage of federal employees claiming direct knowledge of waste or illegality in their agencies has dropped by more than one-third during the last two decades, according to a new report on whistleblowing. The bad news: Among those employees who reported alleged problems, there was an increase between 1992 and 2010 in the proportion who said they experienced at least a threat of reprisal for speaking out.
The numbers come from a lengthy report released this week by the Merit Systems Protection Board. The report draws on a wealth of data from MSPB surveys of thousands of feds conducted in those two years. Back in 1992, 17.7 percent of those surveyed said they had personally observed or directly obtained evidence of at least one illegal or wasteful activity at their agencies in the last 12 months. Those activities would include poor program management, using an official position for personal benefit or unfairly giving a leg up to a contractor, consultant or vendor. By last year, the percentage had fallen to 11.1 percent.
Of those who reported their concerns, only about 7 percent surveyed last year said they got any credit from management. About 44 percent said nothing happened, but almost 35 percent said they were either threatened with reprisal or and actually received a reprisal. In 1992, the comparable figure was about 30 percent.
Federal employees currently working at the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C., may find themselves relocated in favor of a Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
In response to a March 24 General Services Administration request for proposals, Hilton Worldwide, which owns the Waldorf chain, has come up with its own plan for the 315,000 square foot historic structure.
From a press release:
The proposal, tendered in response to the General Services Administration’s solicitation for redevelopment of the iconic 112-year-old Old Post Office Building, would create a 245-room Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and feature destination retailers from New York and Paris, as well as a world-class social and meeting space and a premier fitness facility.
To complement the hotel’s fusion of a historic setting with world renowned retail brands, the proposal also includes a world-class spa, a 28,000 square foot premium fitness center, four signature restaurants and 17,000 sq. ft. of function and ballroom space.
“Our project for a revitalized Old Post Office Building will encourage the flow of tourism, further economic vitality and bring new jobs to Washington, D.C., while preserving this historic building for future generations,” said John Vanderslice, Global Head Luxury and Lifestyle Brands, Hilton Worldwide.
The effort to redevelop federal property would force about 370 employees of the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and several presidential commissions out of their current offices. GSA expects a new lease would be executed in June 2013. It has not decided on a new location for the federal employees working there.
The National Park Service conducts tours of the historic clock tower, which is not included in the proposal.
Dressing up in silly and sometimes-outrageous costumes is part of the fun of Halloween. But the federal employment law firm Tully Rinckey today reminds feds not to let things get too out of hand when suiting up for the office costume party. Feds who go for shock value with their costumes could end up jeopardizing their careers, said attorney John Mahoney:
In an effort to have the best costume, many people get pretty risque or even insensitive with their choice of garb. As explosive and instant as social media has gotten, these photos taken at such parties can be published online in a matter of seconds. Federal employees must be especially careful because they can be, and most often times are, charged with conduct unbecoming of a federal employee. The charge is very broad and supervisors love to use it because it’s easy to prove.
Which means if you act the fool at the party, your boss is likely to choose someone else for that next promotion — or could even get you fired if you step too far out of line.
It’s happened several times in recent years. An offensive costume almost killed former Immigration and Customs Enforcement head Julie Myers’ confirmation, even though she wasn’t wearing it. (At an ICE Halloween party in 2007, an employee dressed in a black-and-white striped prison jumpsuit, wore a dreadlocked wig and darkened his skin to look black. Myers was one of three judges who dubbed his costume “most original” and posed for a picture with him. Myers’ nomination was quickly put on hold when the photo leaked, but the Senate soon confirmed her.)
And just last week, photos surfaced from the 2010 Halloween party of a major “foreclosure mill” law firm that showed employees dressed up like homeless people or foreclosed homeowners. The law firm of Steven L. Baum denied that its employees dress up in a way that mocks people who have lost their homes, but the pictures sparked outrage toward the firm across the internet.
So if your costume is likely to be featured on one of those “We’re a culture, not a costume” posters, you may want to rethink it — or at least not wear it to the office.
The Washington Post today takes a look at how other nations have regained their AAA credit rating from Standard & Poors after being downgraded. One of the leading case studies was Canada’s mid-90s turnaround after being downgraded to AA+.
As the Post notes:
The country passed a landmark budget in 1995. The plan tilted heavily towards cutting expenditures but also included some new revenue (the ratio was about $7 in cuts for every $1 of revenue). Canada cut the civil service by about 25 percent and overhauled its pension program. [emphasis added] The plan worked. Canada is now on much more financially-sound footing; S&P restored its AAA rating in 2002. The turnaround is now referred to, in some economic literature, as “The Maple Leaf Miracle.”
Canada’s predicament back then is similar to the United States’ present situation, the Post said. Which is another sign that no matter what, this deficit reduction is going to sting for federal employees.
Tags: deficit reduction