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One of the big winners in the fiscal 2020 budget was the Department of Homeland Security. With an increase of nearly $51 billion in discretionary funding, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will receive $2 billion, which is $334 million more than it received in 2019. Of that, CISA gets $58.5 million to reduce a backlog in vulnerability assessments and $136 million to modernize and better defend the federal networks.
Federal employees are steps away from two new benefits in 2020: a 3.1% pay raise and 12 weeks of paid parental leave. The House passed the federal pay raise and two minibus spending bills. The bills would avoid a second government shutdown this year and would fund all of government for the rest of 2020. The Senate is expected to take up both bills this week. Meantime, the Senate sent the National Defense Authorization Act to the president’s desk. That bill includes a new paid parental leave benefit for federal employees. (Federal News Network)
Federal employee unions say they’re thrilled with the new benefits, but there’s one priority that’s not covered in the 2020 spending bills or the annual defense policy bill: Collective bargaining protections. The House had passed appropriations language that would have prohibited agencies from implementing bargaining proposals that weren’t mutually agreed to by employee unions. But that language didn’t make the cut in the final minibus spending bills. The American Federation of Government Employees said it will continue to fight for collective bargaining protections in standalone legislation. (Federal News Network)
Federal employees received an early holiday gift from the White House. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday closing the government on Dec. 24. This is the second year in a row the president has closed most of the government on Christmas Eve. (Federal News Network)
Less than three months out from the start of the 2020 population count, the House has approved a $6.7 billion budget for the Census Bureau to continue its decennial operations this fiscal year. The bill sets spending $1.4 billion higher than what Trump asked for in his fiscal 2020 budget request. The Census Project, an association of good-government groups promoting an accurate count, said the spending bill would give the bureau the funds it needs to address cybersecurity threats, IT failures, natural disasters and other emergencies.
The spending deal passed by the House yesterday adds $110 million for military childcare. That brings the total spending for the care of service members’ children up to $1.5 billion. The military has struggled with childcare recently. Problems include a lack of capacity and the inability to hire employees fast enough. According to Blue Star Families, 79% of female service members who relocated last year could not find reliable childcare. (Federal News Network)
The Army launched its newest career field. This one’s focused on marketing the service to the general public. Last week the branch started picking soldiers for the new career path, designated Functional Area 58. The application process will run through mid-January. Over the next five years, officials want to pick about 100 officers who have both experience in marketing and in one of the Army’s basic branches. The change is part of a broader overhaul of how the Army organizes its marketing and advertising functions. Officials have been aiming to get uniformed soldiers more involved in the service’s public messaging. (Army)
After the recent shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, dozens of Navy pilots have expressed their desire to carry firearms on base. Fox News reports a form letter has been drafted for pilots to send to members of Congress and military leaders, demanding those standing watch at military flight schools be allowed to arm themselves.
The congressional Artificial Intelligence Caucus is celebrating the inclusion of an explainable AI provision into the 2020 NDAA conference report. Explainable AI refers to systems that allow users to understand, trust and characterize the strengths and weaknesses of the system’s decision-making process. The provision in the NDAA requires the Defense Department to brief Congress on its use of explainable AI like the limitations of using it, and potential roadblocks to its deployment. (Sen. Rob Portman)
Despite talking up artificial intelligence, the Pentagon has yet to provide its Joint Artificial Intelligence Center with the visibility, authorities and resource commitments needed to scale AI across the department. A new study from the RAND Corporation states DoD’s AI strategy also lacks baselines and metrics to meaningfully assess its progress. DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said the report offers helpful recommendations for DoD to accelerate AI. Deasy said DoD will take the report’s findings into consideration.
Another agency CIO is on the move to the private sector. Howard Whyte, the chief information officer at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, announced he is leaving his post on Jan. 3. Whyte has been CIO since October 2017 and worked at the agency since January 2017. He has held IT positions in and out of government over the last 25 years, with stints at the Defense Information Systems Agency, NASA and Goldman Sachs. Whyte said he will take a position with the private sector, but hasn’t made a decision of where he’s heading quite yet. Sylvia Burns, FDIC’s deputy CIO and former CIO of the Interior Department, will serve in an acting capacity until a successor is named. (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)
A bill aimed at helping agencies track federal grants, has made its way to the president’s desk. The House and Senate have now passed the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency. The bill requires the Office of Management and Budget to develop a standardized reporting system for federal grant recipients. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), one of the bill’s sponsors, said the bill would reduce compliance costs for grant recipients, and improve congressional oversight of grants.
A judge put the federal government on the hook for Texas flood damage. U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Charles Lettow ruled the Army Corps of Engineers took property to benefit the government. West Houston homes, upstream of a dam built by the Corps, were ruined when the dam was closed to prevent downstream flooding during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. In the eminent domain case, the property owners said the Army knew their location would flood, when it built the dam in the 1940s. (Houston Chronicle)