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Today is the last day of fiscal 2020 and the Senate is expected to move the continuing resolution forward to the President’s desk. The House passed the CR bill to keep the government open through Dec. 11 back in September. Every year since 1997, Congress has had to pass a CR because it didn’t approve all 12 appropriations bills on time. The average length of the CRs over the last 20 years is 142 days, and on average lawmakers have needed more than five CRs until they passed a full-year budget, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The clock is ticking for individuals to request coronavirus stimulus payments from the IRS. Households that don’t file federal tax returns have until October 15 to request an economic impact payment from the IRS, if they haven’t already gotten one. The Professional Managers Association, which represents IRS managers, recommended other agencies help the IRS with outreach for this program. That includes anti-poverty programs within the Commerce Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The IRS has gotten more than 5 million nonfilers to sign up for payments through its online portal.
Some reminders for agencies and federal employees ahead of the upcoming election. Agencies can grant federal employees excused absences to vote in the upcoming presidential election. But since more jurisdictions are expanding hours and opening up early voting options, the Office of Personnel Management doesn’t anticipate many employees will need extra time off. Employees can request an excused absence to work as nonpartisan election volunteers. OPM says it’s encouraging managers to accommodate employees if they want to volunteer at the polls on November 3.
The Department of Homeland Security has stood up a Geospatial Management Office to oversee its law enforcement, border protection, and emergency management missions. But its inspector general said the agency doesn’t have an inventory of its geospatial assets or a geospatial data strategy, which are both goals under the 2018 Geospatial Data Act. The IG added DHS hasn’t met the majority of more than a dozen responsibilities under the legislation.
California and the Environmental Protection Agency are going opposite ways when it comes to future vehicles. Governor Gavin Newsom proposes banning the sales of gas and diesel cars by 2035. The EPA says it will release $73 million in grants to support clean diesel programs, and another $23 million to states for their own diesel emissions reducing efforts. That’s on top of $300 million in grants for diesel car and fleet operators to update and retrofit their vehicles. EPA said this year it’s funded 41 clean diesel projects.
A Congressional task force on the future of defense is pushing for even more artificial intelligence in the Pentagon. The panel said all new major defense systems should be AI-ready and work with existing command and control. The task force also wants major programs to explore at least one AI alternative prior to getting funding. Other recommendations include increasing DoD’s science and research fund to be 3.4% of the defense budget and identifying single points of failure in the defense supply chain. (House Armed Services Committee)
The acquisition task force the Pentagon set up to respond to COVID-19 is about to become a permanent feature of the DoD bureaucracy. The Joint Acquisition Task Force helped FEMA and the Health and Human Services Department with more than $3 billion in contracts as part of the coronavirus response. Defense officials said they’ve learned a lot from that process, and ultimately decided they need a standing organization to perform assisted acquisition services for other agencies, especially during emergencies. It’ll be called the Defense Assisted Acquisition Cell. Defense officials expect to stand up the new organization in 2021. (Federal News Network)
Sending soldiers to watch over military assets on the moon may sound like a movie, but it could be a reality. U.S. Space Command’s top general said the Space Force will eventually put troops into space. The consideration signifies a continued escalation of space as a warfighting domain. Maj. Gen. John Shaw said a mission like that is still a long way off. That’s because space is a harsh environment and because the military is getting much better at robotics. Shaw said some of the best robotics are on satellites and can handle most of the service’s needs right now. (Federal News Network)
Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of Naval operations, returned to work this week after an extended absence following heart surgery. Navy officials didn’t disclose Gilday’s medical issues until today, when they responded to an inquiry from the Wall Street Journal. The Journal reports the Navy’s top officer “fell ill” during a run near his home at the Washington Navy Yard in early August.
The Army can’t offer enough cybersecurity training for service members. The desire for cybersecurity and electronic warfare training from the Army Cyber Command is insatiable. Army Lieutenant General Stephen Fogarty said the electronic warfare course remains filled to capacity despite expanding it to 28 weeks from 9 weeks. “When we send these soldiers, warrant officer and officers out to the field, they should be the best trained, most capable we have been able to field up to this point.” The Army also will launch two new courses in 2021. One will be for warrant officers and the other for officers focused on cyber and electronic warfare.
Veterans Affairs says it finished a major inter-agency effort to digitize veteran records from the Vietnam War era. VA worked with the National Archives and Records Administration to digitize deck log records. Those records are supposed to help VA validate claims from Blue Water Navy veterans, and then more quickly determine whether they’re eligible for service-connected disability benefits. VA finished digitizing logs from the Navy back in December. It wrapped up the Coast Guard logs this month. VA has awarded $641 million to over 22,000 Blue Water Navy veterans since 2019.