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The Defense Department is putting in place some new authorities that will let it pay unusually high salaries to a handful of experts. The new administratively determined pay program would let DoD pay up to $340,000 a year to up to 20 experts who agree to work for a short time in hard-to-fill acquisition and technology positions. Each of the appointments in the pay program would be for no more than five years. Congress authorized DoD to create the new pay program as part of the 2021 Defense authorization bill.

The Biden administration is signaling it’s at least possible that the vaccine mandate for federal contractors is coming back — at least for some contractors. In August, a federal appeals court partially overturned an injunction that blocked the mandate nationwide. That appellate ruling finally takes effect on Wednesday. Once it does, the administration said it will issue three separate guidance documents laying out where the mandate can be legally enforced, whether it’s still needed in those places, and if so, the timelines contractors will need to meet. But officials said agencies should not take any steps to enforce the mandate until all of those decisions are made.

Two agencies are teaming up to engineer a next-generation supercomputer. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Army Research Laboratory unveiled the Advanced Graphic Intelligence Logical Computing Environment initiative earlier this month. The goal of the program is to re-design computing architectures so they can better process and analyze massive amounts of data. The agencies awarded six research contracts to kick-start the ambitious effort.

The Army is looking to plug holes in its digital infrastructure and will use $15 million from the Technology Modernization Fund to address cyber vulnerabilities at its arsenals, depots and plants. Officials are increasingly concerned about control systems that run the machinery underpinning the Army’s critical infrastructure. Army Chief Information Officer Raj Iyer said the service has a new strategy to secure that operational technology, and the plants run by Army Materiel Command are just the start. “This is a much broader need. We’re going to start at AMC and the industrial base. And then we’re going to expand that,” Ayer said. (Federal News Network)

One federal union urges senators to support proposed amendments in the National Defense Authorization Act that affect federal first responders. One amendment would give federal firefighters workers’ compensation for illnesses that often arise from exposures over the course of their careers. Another would let disabled federal first responders continue receiving the same retirement benefits as they would if they had not been disabled. The American Federation of Government Employees is throwing its weight behind the two amendments, among many others for the fiscal 2023 NDAA.

The Office of Personnel Management has launched its third emergency leave transfer program for federal employees in less than a month. Feds can now donate their unused paid leave to agency workers directly impacted by Hurricane Ian. OPM has created several ELTPs in just the past few weeks, including for feds impacted by Hurricane Fiona and the Mississippi Water Crisis. If necessary, agencies should consider how to best provide assistance to their affected employees, across the multiple different leave transfer programs.

Victims of one of the largest data breaches to ever hit the federal government are one step closer to a payout, more than seven years in the making.  A federal judge finalized a $63 million settlement for victims of the 2015 Office of Personnel Management data breach. Nearly 20,000 individuals have already signed on as parties to the class-action lawsuit. Those eligible have until December 23 to submit a claim. Data breach victims are expected to receive a minimum payment of $700 dollars and up to $10,000. The 2015 breach compromised the personally identifiable information of about 22 million current and former federal employees and federal job applicants. (Federal News Network)

The IRS has previewed its upcoming mega software development support services contract. The IRS gave more than 150 vendors their first deep dive into their plans for the Enterprise Program, Project, Integration Services contract. The IRS held an industry day last week for this multiple-award blanket purchase agreement. Under EPPIS, the tax agency is seeking contractors to provide assorted software development support services including agile, iterative and managed services. The IRS outlined two goals for EPPIS: Reduce operational costs for large scale integrative services and minimize or eliminate administrative costs or redundancies. The seven-and-a-half year contract has a ceiling of $2.1 billion

Add cyber risk management to the growing list of consideration agencies need to keep in mind as they rethink their office space needs. The General Services Administration updated its leasing regulations, requiring agencies to address potential cyber risks related to new facilities. These risks come from building and access control systems connected to the internet, as well as the increased use of connected devices. GSA said any new leases for fiscal 2023 must be amended or include cyber supply chain risk management requirements.

Election ads putting the IRS in the spotlight are contributing to heated rhetoric and threats against its employees, according to the National Treasury Employees Union. NTEU is calling on candidates and political action committees to pull ads the union said misrepresent the IRS leading to an escalation of threats.