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The pay gap between men and women in the federal workforce is smaller today than it was 20 years ago. Men made 7% more on average compared to women in 2017. That is better than the 19% pay gap between male and female federal workers back in 1999. The Government Accountability Office said the majority of the pay gap is due to factors that cannot be explained by quantifiable data, like discrimination, career choices or workplace flexibilities. But GAO said the unexplained pay gap is higher for Black and Hispanic women compared to White or Asian women.
Congress agreed to some long-awaited corrections to last year’s paid parental leave law for federal employees. The final version of the annual defense authorization bill includes provisions that would extend paid parental leave to all employees at the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. It ensures health workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs — and term and temporary employees in government — are also covered. Congress approved 12 weeks of paid parental leave for employees last year, but left out a few key parts of the federal workforce.
Whether it is animal cruelty or carefully conducted research, this bill would end a certain federal activity. A House bill from Florida Republican Brian Mast and Nevada Democrat Dina Titus would end use of house cats in research at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Cat Abuse in Testing Stops, or CATS Act, follows similar bills to end dog testing and to eliminate VA funding for it. Recent research has used cats to test potential aids for bodily functions of veterans with severed spinal chords. Mast, an Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan, calls the experiments wasteful and unacceptable.
DoD’s oversight of how contractors protect data is picking up steam. The Defense Industrial Base Cybersecurity Assessment Center reviewed the data protections of 110 vendors in 2020 and expects to increase that rate this year. Darren King, the director of the DIB CAC, said at the National Contract Management Association conference yesterday that they will use a hybrid approach that includes in person and online assessments. “The biggest thing they miss is multi-factor authentication,” he said. “What that really means is that you have to be able to log into a system and have trustworthiness of the person logging in.” Additionally, King said the most important document is the vendors’ system security plan.
A national cyber director is coming back to the White House. The House and Senate included the provision in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed out of conference yesterday. The Trump administration eliminated the cyber coordinator role in 2018. The new national cyber director would be a Senate-confirmed position in the White House with policy and budgetary authority, and would coordinate national cyber-incident response efforts. It was one of 26 recommendations from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission to make it into the NDAA.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the U.S. needs a bigger Navy — quite possibly at the expense of the service where he has spent his career. In a speech to the U.S. Naval Institute, Gen. Mark Milley strongly suggested the Army’s budget would need to shrink in the coming decades as the Pentagon spends more on what he thinks are the biggest priorities: Projecting military power in a lot of places all at once. In particular, he said, that means at least a 500-ship Navy. “If we’re serious about great power competition and deterring great power war, 500 is probably your entrance ticket to a competition like that. So we’re going to need a larger fleet,” Milley said. That does not necessarily mean 500 crewed ships — Milley said between 150 and 250 of them could be remotely-piloted or autonomous.
A commission that has been looking into why there have been so many military aircraft accidents said there’s no single answer. Between 2013 and 2018, the military lost 224 service members and 186 aircraft to accidents. That comes to about $11.6 billion in crashes. The National Commission on Military Aviation Safety said there are many reasons for the problem. The commission says training cutbacks may be taking a toll on safety. Unpredictable funding, due to government shutdowns and continuing resolutions, also put aircraft and depot maintenance in jeopardy. The commission also found that pilots are being asked to do too much paperwork outside of flying.
When it comes to personal finances, the Defense Department appears to have contentment in the ranks and beyond. About 70% of military spouses said they felt comfortable or very comfortable in their family financial situation. That’s a 6% increase from 2012. The numbers come from DoD’s 2019 survey of military spouses, which also reports that 41% of them said their financial condition improved in the past year.
Agencies must inventory how they are using artificial intelligence under an executive order from President Donald Trump. The executive order ties together several AI policies or proposals recently made at the agency or federal-advisory-committee level. It gives civilian agencies a common set of AI ethics principles to follow, largely borrowed from policy documents adopted by the Defense Department and the intelligence community. It also directs the Office of Personnel Management to look at expanding job rotation programs to bring more private sector AI talent into agencies. (Federal News Network)
The Government Accountability Office is asking the Census Bureau for an update on the quality of 2020 census data. The bureau announced last month it uncovered anomalies during data processing that need to be resolved before it wraps up its work. Census documents obtained by the House Oversight and Reform Committee show these anomalies will take at least 20 days to resolve. The bureau, by law, has until December 31 to submit apportionment data, but census officials said they will run past that deadline if the data is not up to their standards.
House Republicans elected a few new committee leaders for the 117th Congress. Rep. Mike Bost (R-IIl.) will be the new ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. He will replace Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), who is retiring at the end of the year. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) will replace Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) as the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. Thornberry is also retiring. Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) will remain the ranking member of the Oversight and Reform Committee. He took over as ranking member when Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) left the position to be the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.