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Just how many vaccine exemptions has the military given out?

October 29, 2021

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It might be a small percentage of service members, but military applications for COVID-19 vaccine exemptions have become a garden industry. And the Army appears to granting the most exemptions among the armed services. That’s according to Sean Timmons, the managing partner at the law firm Tully Rinckey, which specializes in federal employee issues. He said that since August, their calls have been non-stop. He said religious objections top the list of exemption requests. But many also come in from those who are weeks from retirement or the end of their enlistments, and so want to run out the clock. (Federal News Network)

Two of the government’s cybersecurity leaders have new suggestions for vendors who work with 5G networks. The National Security Agency and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency released new guidance yesterday on how to keep cyber attackers who’ve found one entry point from infiltrating an entire 5G cloud infrastructure. The new document is the first in a series of four publications NSA and CISA plan to release on 5G and cloud security.

Agencies are much more excited to partner with DHS on a key cyber program than previously. All CFO Act agencies and 85% of the non-CFO Act agencies have signed new memorandums of understanding with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency for the continuous diagnostics and mitigation or CDM program. President Joe Biden’s cyber executive order in May required agencies to update their MOUs and CISA said most agencies did so in record time. For the first MOU, CISA needed almost three years to get all the agencies to sign on. This new MOU lets CISA and agencies collaborate on cyber tools like threat hunting and provide more granular data to the governmentwide dashboard.

National Cyber Director Chris Inglis picked up a helping hand. Federal Chief Information Security Officer Chris DeRusha gained an additional title — deputy national cyber director for federal cybersecurity — and will work under the national cyber director. Inglis said DeRusha’s dual roles will help improve federal coherence in cybersecurity. Inglis meanwhile is standing up his White House office, which will have about 80 employees as staff.

House lawmakers are opening their collective wallets again to continue to improve federal cybersecurity. The new version of the Build Back Better Act would give the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency an additional $100 million to better protect federal agency systems. The bill also would give CISA another $50 million to develop a secure cloud infrastructure and the corresponding tools like migration advisory services and threat hunting capabilities. In all, House lawmakers are proposing to give CISA $400 million in new cyber-related funding in the bill.

IRS funding plans remain mostly intact as part as of the Build Back Better Act’s framework. The IRS under this not-yet finalized deal, would get $44 billion in enforcement spending over the next decade. The Biden administration said these investments will allow the IRS to collect an additional $400 billion in taxes owed. The agency would also get nearly $5 billion to continue its IT modernization push, and develop a call-back feature for taxpayers trying to reach the IRS.

The Postal Service is on track to spend big bucks on electric vehicles. A framework of the Build Back Better Act gives the agency nearly $2.5 billion to purchase more electric delivery trucks as part of its next-generation fleet. USPS would also get nearly $3.5 billion for infrastructure such as charging stations at its facilities. The Postal Service inspector general would get $15 million to oversee this agency spending.

The General Services Administration is close to getting funds to make the federal fleet, and federal office space better for the environment. A framework of the Build Back Better Act gives GSA nearly $3 billion to buy electric vehicles through September 2026. It also gives GSA more than $3 billion to improve energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of federal buildings.
The Defense Information Systems Agency is taking a clean-sheet look at its budget. DISA’s zero-based budget review is expected to trim fat from the agency’s budget and ensure its dollars are lined up with its priorities. The review is expected to take place over the next year and have the biggest effect on the fiscal year 2024 budget. DISA wants to invest in command-and-control technologies, zero trust security, and automated cybersecurity, but it may need to shift funding around with defense budgets projected to see smaller increases in the coming years. (Federal News Network)

The Defense Department is completely overhauling how it responds to sexual assault, but some senators think it will take too long. The Pentagon thinks it will take six to nine years to implement 82 recommendations from the Independent Review Committee on Sexual Assault in the Military. Eight high-profile senators say that’s entirely too long considering thousands are being assaulted each year. Lawmakers like Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) are calling on the Defense Department to brief Congress on the timeline for changing its system. Those briefings could lead to further legislation or actions from the legislative bodies. One current bill would speed up the process of taking sexual assault prosecutions out of the chain of command. (Federal News Network)

Four top Defense Department positions are close to being filled after the Senate Armed Services Committee gave the nominees the seal of approval. Alexandra Baker was given the thumbs up from senators to be the next deputy undersecretary of defense for policy and Nickolas Guertin was approved to be the director of operational test and evaluation. Other nominees moving on include John Coffey as general counsel of the Navy and Douglas Bush as assistant Army secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology.
The CIA said about 975 of its career officers are vaccinated. CIA Director William Burns said he’s not too concerned about losing a large number of employees to the federal vaccine mandate. Employees have until Nov. 22 to be fully vaccinated. “I think we’re going to continue to fulfill our mission just as the American people expect, and with a very high vaccination rate.” Burns said employees have issued around 250 religious exception requests to the vaccine mandate. (Federal News Network)

Two National Institutes of Health COVID-19 researchers have been named federal employees of the year. Doctors Kizzmekia Corbett and Barney Graham received that accolade, last evening at the annual Services to America Medals gala. Their work enabled industry to develop vaccines in record time. Other awardees included Even Kwerel, a Federal Communications Commission economist who received the Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal. Callie Higgins, a National Institute of Standards and Technology engineer who developed a way to detect flaws in 3D printed parts, received the Emerging Leaders medal. Awards come under the auspices of the Partnership for Public Service. (Federal News Network).

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