GSA looking at potential use of intelligent personal assistants

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

In today’s Top Federal Headlines, the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service has started a pilot program allowing digital assistant programs like Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana to have access to public service information.

  • With possible cuts, could the General Services Administration turn to artificial intelligence to fulfill some government services? In a recent blog post, Justin Herman, leader of GSA’s Emerging Citizen Technology program, said GSA has begun a pilot program to make public service information available to Intelligent Personal Assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana. (DigitalGov)
  • The Congressional Budget Offices adds to the ongoing debate about whether federal employees are paid too much. CBO reviewed comparable private sector and federal government wages and benefits and found overall, feds make 17 percent more than their private-sector counterparts. Feds with advanced degrees however 18 percent less. (Congressional Budget Office)
  • The Office of Personnel Management has updated its guide on severance pay. It gives agencies a formula for calculating how much eligible federal employees should receive. Employees who have served for at least 12 continuous months and have been involuntarily separated from their agency can get severance pay. The release comes as talks of reductions have been surrounding agencies. (Federal News Radio)
  • One agency is an early adopter of new federal web design standards. The Agriculture Department is touting a newly redesigned website that is more intuitive and user-friendly. The USDA digital team built the new site on a Drupal platform, allowing for more flexibility with content management and the ability to quickly edit and publish information online. The site redesign had several goals in mind including better highlighting information, and implementing a responsive design across the entire site no matter what device citizens are using. USDA said the site also meets all current and upcoming accessibility standards. (Department of Agriculture)
  • A retired Marine major general will be taking over as the new director of the Secret Service. Randolph Alles was in the Corps for 35 years and has been the acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection after previously overseeing CBP’s Air and Marine operations. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House has picked four new nominees staff the Pentagon’s leadership team. The nominations include Kari Bingen to be the number two official in the office of the undersecretary of Defense for intelligence and Robert Daigle as the Pentagon’s new director of cost assessment and program evaluation. The administration also picked Robert Karem as the new assistant secretary for international security affairs and Kenneth Rapuano as the assistant secretary for homeland defense. Assuming Senate approval, those officials would join Defense Secretary James Mattis as the only DoD officials to be nominated and confirmed during the Trump administration so far.
  • Another deputy department head wins approval from the Senate. This time it’s the Justice Department. By a 94-to-six vote, Rod Rosenstein has become deputy attorney general. He’ll head up DoJ’s investigation in alleged Russian interference in the most recent presidential election. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from that probe. Rosenstein is a career federal prosecutor, appointed as U.S. attorney for Maryland by George W. Bush in 2005 and retained by Barack Obama.
  • A senator supports a watchdog’s call for an investigation into GSA’s verdict on its lease with the Trump Hotel at the Old Post Office in Washington D.C. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) said he wants to help investigate claims made by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, that President Donald Trump has a conflict of interest related to the lease. GSA ruled the president was not breaking any rules last month. (Sen. Tom Carper)
  • The IRS reports tax refunds and filing extensions are both up this filing season compared to 2016. It said more than 11 million extensions have been filed, and the average tax refund is just under $2,800. The agency said it also saw an influx of more than 17 million filings the week leading up to Tax Day. (Internal Revenue Service)

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