To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe in PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.
It’s time to update the Federal Chief Financial Officers Act after 30 years and GAO told Congress how to do it. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro laid out a litany of changes lawmakers should consider as they update the 1990 CFO Act. Dodaro told the Senate Budget Committee there are six broad areas Congress should look into. One is giving CFOs the full range of authorities for both budget formulation and budget execution. The current law only gives financial managers oversight over the execution piece. Dodaro also said 75% of the federal financial management systems need upgrading so standards and centralization is another area for the revised law to address. (Senate Budget Committee)
A lease agreement for the Agriculture Department’s new, permanent office space in Kansas City, Missouri, was signed. The space is for USDA’s Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It’s an important next step in USDA’s ongoing efforts to relocate most of the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of Washington, D.C. The lease covers 120,000 square feet of space. The contract runs for 17 years and will cost a little more than $25 million. ERS and NIFA employees will continue to work out of temporary USDA-owned offices in Kansas City until the new building is ready. (Federal News Network)
USDA’s relocation has gutted the workforces at the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Sixty-four percent of ERS positions are vacant. Three quarters of NIFA positions are vacant as well. USDA has hired 17 new people to ERS and nine others at NIFA. A little over 30 people employees are in Kansas City based positions but have their relocations pushed back to December or March. USDA says it’s temporarily using re-employed annuitants and short-term contractors to fill out the workforce. (Federal News Network)
An investigator with the Federal Labor Relations Authority said the Environmental Protection Agency bargained in bad faith with the American Federation of Government Employees. AFGE had filed two unfair labor practice complaints against the EPA. The union challenged the agency’s attempts to enforce bargaining proposals that AFGE hadn’t agreed to. The FLRA proposed a settlement agreement where the EPA rescinds the imposed contract and returns to the bargaining table with AFGE. But the FLRA still doesn’t have a general counsel, and lacks the enforcement authority needed to prosecute the EPA. (American Federation of Government Employees)
Citing the need to fund higher priorities, a senator took aim at government spending on public relations. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) wants to curtail $1.4 billion in annual spending on everything from advertising campaigns to fidget spinners. Her new bill would prohibit agencies from shelling out $600,000 for coloring books, $33,000 on snuggies and $16,000 for the gyroscopic toys. As for costumes, only statutory mascots, like Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl, would remain. (Sen. Joni Ernst)
The Senate passed a package of 2020 spending bills. The minibus covers Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Justice and other related agencies. The spending bill didn’t include back pay for low-wage federal contractors from the previous government shutdown. Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) had made a last minute push to secure back pay in the 2020 bill, but their amendment never got a vote on the Senate floor.
The Defense budget has hit another snag on Capitol Hill because of disputes over funding for the president’s border wall. The Senate made progress on some of the government’s appropriations for fiscal 2020 yesterday, but Democrats voted against the Defense spending bill, denying it the 60 votes it needed to move to a final vote. Democrats say they want language that would block the president from redirecting DoD funds to pay for wall construction, as he did last year. The continuing resolution that funds DoD and the rest of the government expires in just three weeks. (Federal News Network)
The Defense Department selected four bases to host testing and experimentation for 5G technology. They are Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Naval Base San Diego in California and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany in Georgia. DoD will issue a draft request for proposals this month. The bases were selected for their ability to provide access to site spectrum bands, access to key facilities, and the ability to conduct controlled experimentation. (Department of Defense)
After 15 months of brainstorming, private-sector tech experts serving on the Defense Innovation Board have sent their recommendations on ethical artificial intelligence to the Pentagon. The board recommended the Defense Department stand up an AI steering committee to help recruit and retain talent, and urges its Joint AI Center to hold an annual conference on AI safety and security. The board, chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, said DoD should also build a reliable “off switch” into all the AI systems it deploys. (Federal News Network)
Wouldn’t it be great if cyber attacks could be stopped before they could do any damage? That’s what the Defense Information Systems Agency is looking for. A request for information asks companies for machine learning technologies which can detect and thwart cyber attacks in real time. Responses are due by Nov. 8. The Defense Information Systems Agency is looking to industry for some ways to detect and thwart cyber attacks in real time before they can do any damage. DISA wants those technologies to have machine learning aspects and expects them to improve over time. (FedBizOpps)
Twenty-five participants in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ artificial intelligence challenge will move onto the next round. The agency selected the winners from more than 300 entries, each with their own AI solution to improve health care delivery. CMS will select seven finalists next year. Each will receive $60,000 in prize money. A grand prizewinner will receive $1 million. (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
In the final stretch of census preparations, more than a quarter of the systems the Census Bureau will use for the 2020 count came close to missing key deadlines for testing and development. The Government Accountability Office found two of the bureau’s 52 IT systems have yet to receive authorizations to operate. GAO said the bureau is generally on track though. Despite these setbacks GAO said the bureau is generally on-track with 2020 count readiness. (Government Accountability Office)
USDA is ready to enter the next stage of its contact center modernization effort. USDA and GSA’s Centers of Excellence will create an omni-channel approach to helping farmers, producers and other agency customers work with the agency. The upgrade will attempt to consolidate dozens of bureau specific call centers into one across the entire agency. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the One USDA contact center is an example of how the agency is having a positive impact on its customers and streamlining the bureaucracy. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)