GAO: Though improved, DHS employee engagement still needs a lot of work

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  • The Government Accountability Office sees some progress in the efforts from the Department of Homeland Security to improve employee engagement. But it’s still ranked last among all large cabinet agencies in government. GAO said DHS could do a better job planning employee engagement activities and measuring progress to ensure they’re working. The department launched a family readiness council, professional development initiatives and a leadership survey in recent years. The Coast Guard has the highest engagement of any DHS subcomponent — 76% — The Office of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction has the lowest — 38%.
  • The Office of Management and Budget clarified agencies should still measure and track program performance, after an earlier OMB memo eliminated several sections of management policy guidance. OMB Director Russ Vought told agencies to identify no more than two priority goals where they can make the biggest impact, and focus on measuring progress in those areas. OMB is also working with agencies as part of a pilot program to stand up an online inventory of all federal programs and their performance data.
  • House Democrats are calling on the Office of Management and Budget not to implement the president’s Schedule F executive order in the final days of the Trump administration. OMB had submitted a roster of potential candidates for Schedule F to the Office of Personnel Management for approval. The Government Accountability Office told the House Oversight and Reform Committee, OPM approved most OMB positions for Schedule F reclassification. Oversight committee Chairman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said it would be highly inappropriate for OMB to reclassify their employees between now and Wednesday.
  • The calls have begun for the incoming Biden administration to repeal some Trump-era executive orders impacting federal employees. House Democrats identified five executive orders and one presidential memo they want the incoming administration to repeal or rescind. The EOs limit collective bargaining and eliminate certain types of diversity and inclusion training for federal employees. Another order allows agencies to reclassify career civil servants as quasi-political appointees. Democrats said these orders are harmful to the federal workforce. President-elect Joe Biden has already said he’ll repeal at least three of the EO’s in question.
  • The National Security Agency is moving quickly to name a new head of its cyber division. NSA moved quickly to fill its vacant cybersecurity director role with a familiar face. Rob Joyce will replace Anne Neuberger, who is leaving to join the National Security Council. Joyce has been the senior advisor for cybersecurity to the NSA director since returning to the agency in 2018 from National Security Council where he served in both cybersecurity and homeland security roles. Joyce started at NSA in 1989 and held an assortment of roles including running the Tailored Access Operations program and as the deputy director of the Information Assurance Directorate.
  • The president-elect added more names to his list of incoming White House personnel. Biden said he’ll nominate Eric Lander, the principal leader of the Human Genome Project, to serve as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lander will also serve as the presidential science adviser, a role Biden expects to elevate to the Cabinet level. The National Security Agency’s cybersecurity director, Anne Neuberger, will serve as the deputy National Security adviser for cyber and emerging technology at the National Security Council.
  • IBM is looking for a new person to lead its federal business. Jay Bellissimo, Big Blue’s general manager of U.S. Public and Federal Market for the last 15 months, surprisingly resigned to take a new job at a telecommunications company. Bellissimo, who spent 18 years at IBM, will be the chief operating officer at Vonage. His last day at IBM was Friday. IBM did not comment on who would take over for Bellissimo even on an interim basis. IBM had more than $1.1 billion in federal revenue in fiscal 2020, according to USASpending dot gov.
  • One of the big reasons the Defense Department can’t pass a financial audit is that it can’t account for the amount of goods and services the military services are buying from each other. The Government Accountability Office said DoD reconciled more than $100 billion in internal transactions in 2019 without proper documentation. That’s largely because the military services have their own accounting systems, and the buyer and seller don’t always agree on the amount or the timing. DoD plans to eventually solve the problem by adopting Treasury Department software that shares all of that data, but the timeline isn’t clear, partly because DoD sad the Treasury system doesn’t meet its business needs.
  • The U.S. Naval Academy is beginning to vaccinate its staff and faculty against COVID-19. The school superintendent said he is thrilled to be able to start vaccinating employees and that it is an important step in returning the school to normal. The Defense Department as a whole is prioritizing who will get the vaccine first. Frontline workers are the top priority followed by those essential for national security and service members about to be deployed.
  • The military has been investing heavily in new technologies, but what about the people who use the newly created weapons. The Navy says it is trying to shore up what it called a lethality gap between new weapons and training to use them. In order to counter China and Russia, the Pentagon is building weapons like hypersonics and Constellation Class frigates, but they may not be quickly deployed if sailors aren’t up to speed on how they work. The Navy wants to install virtual training centers at ports and learning centers so sailors can gain knowledge on how to use the new platforms without even seeing the weapons in person. That way sailors can be prepared to fight as soon as the weapons are in their hands. (Federal News Network)
  • The IRS will open this year’s tax filing season on February 12. That’s a later start than in recent years. The delayed start will give the IRS more time to complete the programming and testing of its systems, following the rollout of a second wave of economic incentive payments. Taxpayers still waiting on stimulus payments will be able claim them as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically and opt for direct deposit to optimize the speed of their refund.

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