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The Partnership for Public Service is sounding alarm bells over the state of the federal workforce ahead of the upcoming presidential election. The Partnership, Princeton University, Vanderbilt University and Georgetown University surveyed several thousand federal employees, executives and political appointees. Preliminary survey results show 60% of employees say their workforce is inadequately skilled to handle their missions. The slow federal hiring process is partly to blame, according to 82%. And 32% say old civil service laws are the biggest recruitment barrier. Nearly two-thirds of senior executives are eligible to retire by 2023.
A few thousand federal employees are a step closer to securing their own locality pay area. The Office of Personnel Management finalized Des Moines, Iowa, as a new locality pay area. It also expanded the Los Angeles locality pay area to include another 1,900 federal employees. The changes will be official once the President signs an executive order formally adjusting locality pay rates for 2021. But President Trump isn’t recommending locality pay adjustments for next year. So employees in Des Moines may not see immediate locality pay changes next year. (Federal News Network)
Federal employees and retirees can expect to pay nearly five-percent more for health insurance next year. Average premiums with the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will go up three point six percent in 2021. Participants will pay four point nine percent more on average next year. A little over half of federal employees may see costs to their current plans go up between five and ten percent. The Office of Personnel Management says it’s encouraging insurance carriers to expand telehealth service coverage during the pandemic. And all carriers will be required to waive costs for a FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine. (Federal News Network)
After a long process, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a full new member. Joselyn Samuels was sworn in yesterday. President Trump nominated her back in March, about the same day as federal offices emptied because of the pandemic. She was confirmed by the Senate in late September. Samuels has a long career in the field. She was the Health and Human Services civil rights director and assistant attorney general for civil rights during the Obama administration. Earlier, she was a policy attorney at the EEOC itself. The commission is still down one. Victoria Lipnic’s term expired Friday.
Leaders of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce are concerned about the Defense Department’s interest in owning and operating 5G networks in domestic areas. Two of the top lawmakers on the committee said DoD may be trying to usurp the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s authority by operating a national 5G network and leasing federal spectrum. The legislators contend that it is illegal for the Pentagon to conduct those actions without Congressional approval. The lawmakers asked the Government Accountability Office to look into the issue.
Now that the Defense Department is undergoing regular financial audits, it has a lot more information about how to eventually pass one. The Government Accountability Office said DoD has built a valuable resource by tracking all of the financial weaknesses auditors have been finding in a central database. The downside, according to GAO, is the department isn’t keeping track of as much information as it should. The office found most of the corrective action plans DoD put in place to deal with auditors’ recommendations are missing important data elements or don’t show the root cause of the underlying problem.
The Army is trying to make itself more predictable for its employees. Soldiers are constantly being deployed or sent to training and it takes a toll on their lives. The Army is trying to change that and its whole attitude toward personnel and future weapons systems. The service’s new strategy for readiness is to have rigidly predictable periods for deployment, training and modernization. The stability will give soldiers a better ability to prepare for being away from home. Meanwhile, the Army can upgrade its systems at a regular base. Army leaders said the challenge is staying predictable for employees while remaining unpredictable to adversaries. (Federal News Network)
The Energy Department’s Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office is hiring a new executive to lead up its efforts on adversarial AI. The office’s director Cheryl Ingstad said this executive, once hired, will develop methodologies to prevent malicious actors from corrupting AI models and the data sets they run on. Energy will also launch a training module later this fall meant to develop AI skills within its workforce.
The Coronavirus pandemic is giving the State Department an opportunity to reimagine itself. A cross-functional team of executives is reviewing the State Department’s approach to technology, training, policy and strategy in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency. State CIO Stuart McGuigan said during the AFCEA Bethesda Tech Summit 2020 yesterday that the working group is taking an agile approach to improving business processes. The team will make recommendations, then test out the new methods and improve them as they go along. McGuigan said State is evolving to become more of an evidence-based organization relying on its Center for Analytics to help anticipate current and future needs.
The General Services Administration released a new tool to help agencies get the most out of web analytics. The Web Analytics Playbook outlines best practices for how agencies should select key performance indicators to set metrics, share data, and invest in training. This only marks the latest in a series of GSA playbooks. Its 18F digital services office also recently released a playbook on how to de-risk agency IT projects. (Federal News Network)
The National Transportation Safety Board consolidated three separate databases into a new public-facing system for all investigations, safety recommendations and dockets. The agency launched the new query system, called the Case Analysis and Reporting Online — or CAROL—earlier this week. NTSB said CAROL will help users more easily access its data, and it also changes the way the NTSB shares its information with other agencies. Under the previous approach of three disparate databases, there was no way to submit queries for investigative details or for findings in non-aviation investigations.
The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress released its final report. The final report includes all 97 of the recommendations approved by the committee during this session of Congress. The select committee will disband at the end of this session after holding 16 hearing in less than two years. The select committee also worked with the Government Publishing Office to create and print the report using its new X-Pub technology, which allows GPO to quickly and easily publish print and digital versions of the report simultaneously.