NIH establishing new organizations to track emerging diseases around the world

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  • The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases with NIH created a network of new organizations to provide early warnings of emerging diseases wherever they occur. NIAD awarded 11 grants worth $17 million to form the new Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases. Each Center will involve collaborations with peer institutions in the United States and 28 other countries. Research projects will include surveillance studies to identify previously unknown causes of illnesses in humans; find the animal sources of viral or other disease-causing pathogens; and determine what genetic or other changes make these pathogens capable of infecting humans.
  • A coalition of affinity groups representing Justice Department employees said a nuance in the federal hiring process may have a disproportionate impact on women and people of color. DOJ and other agencies often ask job candidates about their salary history. Agencies use that history to set pay beyond starting General Schedule rates. But employee groups said the practice means employees who made less in the past are disproportionately paid at other lower rates than their counterparts with the same experience at the department. DOJ employee groups are asking the department to end the practice. (Federal News Network)
  • At least one federal payroll provider said it’s preparing to implement the president’s recent payroll tax deferral executive order. The National Finance Center said employees whose gross Social Security wages are less than $4,000 can defer taxes, though they will have to eventually pay them back. NFC initially gave an implementation date in early September. But the provider said it will defer employee deductions after getting guidance from the Office of Personnel Management. Employees will eventually have to pay deferred amounts back.
  • The IRS is taking bite-sized steps to consolidating legacy systems. The agency’s new Enterprise Digitalization and Case Management Office will spend the next 12-to-15 months migrating businesses processes from legacy systems to a cloud-based enterprise case management system. The IRS said the first business system on the new ECM platform will go live in December. The migration aims to give the IRS a better picture of a taxpayer’s status when they call the agency for help. (Federal News Network)
  • The president’s National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee is coming into focus. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Energy Department have named members to the board the president created through an executive order last year. The committee will be led by OSTP’s assistant director for quantum information science, and the dean of research at Stanford University. The other 21 members come from industry, universities, federal labs and agencies.
  • One congressman wants to give more power to the federal cyber sheriff. Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) wants to give the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency carte blanche when it comes to protecting federal networks. The Tennessee Republican introduced the Protecting Federal Networks Act that would let CISA hunt for vulnerabilities on agency networks without advanced notice. The bill also would call for Department of Homeland Security to issue a Binding Operational Directive explaining how this new authority would work. OMB gave CISA the power to scan agency networks in 2014, but only if they set up an agreement ahead of time.
  • The National Nuclear Security Administration crossed the $1 billion mark in savings from its 14-year-old supply chain management program. NNSA said the program helps it more effectively manage $5 billion of annual purchases across the enterprise. The Supply Chain Management Center helps NNSA buyers consolidate proposals, quotes and bids from various suppliers into one central hub for a straightforward comparison. Using that data, no agency site pays higher prices than another for services and items such as industrial supplies and computer equipment.
  • The Air Force has a new official in charge of enterprise IT. Lauren Knausenberger is the Air Force’s new deputy chief information officer. She previously served as the service’s chief transformation officer. In a speech to airmen outlining her new role late last week, she promised to keep pushing for digital transformation, “I know that you’ve enjoyed working from home. All of your stuff works; your internet is fast. We know that we have a lot of work to do when you come back to the office. We’re going to enable you and your commanders to make decisions at the lowest level possible.” Knausenberger replaces Bill Marion, who retired this summer.

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