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.
Federal employees are contributing and saving more for retirement due to two Thrift Savings Plan policy changes over the past few decades. The Congressional Budget Office said participation among federal employees in the TSP went up 22% after the government introduced an employer match. Average employee contribution rates went up 3.5% due to that policy. CBO said automatic enrollment drove up employee participation in the TSP another 13%. Employee contribution rates went up less than 1% due to automatic enrollment. (Congressional Budget Office)
Two months out from the start of the 2020 Census for most households, the Census Bureau has ramped up its recruiting efforts for on-the-ground work that begins this spring. To hire up to 500,000 enumerators, the bureau has received 1.7 million job applications, and seeks about another million. Most enumeration work will begin in mid-May. At this point in recruitment, the bureau now receives 25,000 applications every day. (Federal News Network)
In an effort to course-correct from more than a decade of net financial losses, the Postal Service has released its long-awaited five year-business plan. The plan looks to update training and career paths for postal employees, and revamp its pay for performance system. Many of the recommendations will require legislation from Congress. The plan comes nearly eight months after Postmaster General Megan Brennan updated the House Oversight and Reform Committee about the agency’s work on a 10-year plan. Many of the recommendations require legislation from Congress, regulatory rollback from the Postal Regulatory Commission or negotiations with the postal unions to go into effect. (Federal News Network)
On the one year anniversary of the Evidence Based Policymaking Act, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has finalized its data rules of the road. HUD now has plans and milestones for how it can use data to drive decisions. HUD worked with the Data and Analytics Center of Excellence at GSA to develop a new charter for the Office of the Chief Data Officer. Agencies had to name a CDO last July as part of the Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. The new charter sets clear expectations for the CDO and the business value the office can provide. It includes both agency and Federal Data Strategy priorities. (General Services Administration)
A new draft strategic plan details four broad areas for how the federal government can drive health IT. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released the draft strategy Wednesday after working with 25 other federal agencies to outline goals and initiatives. ONC said the plan will help decrease provider burden and open up new business models throughout the health app economy. Comments on the draft strategy are due by March 18.
House Democrats and the Interior Department continued to spar over the agency’s plans to relocate employees at the Bureau of Land Management. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt are exchanging letters over the BLM relocation. Bernhardt recently told the House committee he will move BLM headquarters with no limitation. But Grijalva said Interior hasn’t fulfilled its obligation to communicate its plans for the relocation to Congress. Congress didn’t appropriate any funding for the BLM relocation in the 2020 budget. (House Natural Resources Committee)
Two Democratic lawmakers are asking the secretary of the Army why the Army Reserve allegedly mishandled reports of sexual assault. Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) sent a letter yesterday asking Secretary Ryan McCarthy for a comprehensive review. Reports indicated the 416th Theater Engineer Command violated law and policy in several ways, including by failing to refer assault allegations to criminal investigators. (Federal News Network)
The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee escalated a feud with the Department of Veterans Affairs for what he called a flippant response to sexual assault allegations. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) is steamed at Secretary Robert Wilkie, who said unsubstantiated claims could deter veterans from seeking care. Takano fired back, calling it outrageous that Wilkie would cast doubt on a credible assault claim. At issue is the case of a female committee staff member who in September told police she was assaulted by a man at VA’s Washington, D.C. medical center.
A Pentagon audit found the military health system isn’t doing enough to keep its opioid prescriptions in check. The DoD inspector general found DoD is starting to implement tools to track overprescription of opioids, but the data they’ve produced so far is unreliable. Based on a review of medical records at three facilities, the IG found patients received unusually high doses, for years at a time in some cases, because DoD wasn’t adequately monitoring physicians. Local staff told auditors that doctors tend not to challenge each other’s prescription practices as a “professional courtesy.” (Department of Defense Office of Inspector General)
Tablets are being tested by the Air Force to help train new airmen faster. The tablets use an adaptive learning platform that tests airmen in basic training using multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and true-or-false questions. It then uses information from the way the trainees study to reinforce tough material. Two classes at Joint Base San Antonio/Lackland are using the tablets. The Air Force is testing the technology for six months, and then will evaluate future usage. (Air Force)
An application aimed at helping airmen keep a budget is coming out with some new features. The Air Force Aid Society Budget Builder App will offer more enhanced expense tracking and spending categories. It will also have customized budget reporting features and can receive real-time aid society news and program updates. The Air Force originally released the app in 2018 to help airmen and their families improve how they save and budget money each month. The application is available through the App Store and on Google Play. (Air Force)
The Navy is expanding one of its additive manufacturing facilities at its Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst. The facility is adding more 3D printing machines to increase production capacity and speed in support of Naval Air Systems Command. The Navy is exploring the use additive manufacturing to create aviation parts that would not be possible through traditional manufacturing methods. Those machines help build parts that are no longer available in the supply chain. Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst first opened in 2015 with a team of four people. It has now expanded to more than 20 engineers. (Navy)