IRS wants to expand reach to non-English speakers

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  • With the tax filing season soon underway, the IRS is making its website more accessible to non-English speakers. The agency now offers basic tax information in more than 20 languages, including Spanish, Mandarin, and Russian. It’s the start of the agency’s multilingual improvement approach, which also includes expansion of its over-the-phone interpreter services. The IRS is carrying out this work through its Taxpayer First Office, which is named after the agency reorganization bill Congress passed in 2019.
  • Acquisition programs at the Homeland Security Department are doing a better job of meeting their cost and schedule goals. But of the 24 programs the Government Accountability Office assessed in a new report, 10 breached one or more of their baselines during fiscal 2020 and five of them were still in breach as of September. Among the five that were in breach in September were the National Cybersecurity Protection System and the grants management modernization effort. GAO said despite these challenges, DHS has strengthened the implementation of its policies to improve acquisition oversight.
  • The State Department moved quickly to fill its top technology role. Keith Jones is the new chief information officer and assistant secretary of information resource management at the State Department. He replaces Stuart McGuigan, who left on January 20 as a political appointee. Jones is a political appointee too. He also is the first CIO the Biden administration replaced of seven who are political appointees across the government. This is Jones’s second stint in government. Previously, he was the deputy CIO for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration directorate and for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement directorate at DHS.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers said it’s complying with President Biden’s order to suspend construction on a border wall. The Corps is telling contractors to limit their work to just what’s necessary to secure their worksites. Meanwhile, a Senate Democratic aide told the Associated Press that the Trump Administration diverted more money from the Defense and Treasury departments’ budgets than has been previously reported. Nearly $16 billion had been spent for border wall construction as of this week. Less than $6 billion of that was approved by Congress. (Federal News Network)
  • Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) is back again with a new federal pay raise proposal. Connolly has new legislation that would give federal employees a three point two percent pay raise in 2022. That includes a two point two percent across the board raise, plus an additional one percent locality pay adjustment. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is planning to introduce a companion bill. The two have introduced similar legislation for several years now. President Biden has until the end of August to tell Congress about his plans for federal pay. (Federal News Network)
  • The Federal Labor Relations Authority has a new chairman. President Biden tapped longtime FLRA member Ernest DuBester to lead the authority. DuBester first joined the FLRA during the Obama administration. Former President Trump re-appointed him to the authority back in 2017. He was often the lone member who dissented on rulings from the authority during the Trump administration.
  • The Treasury Department is testing out if artificial intelligence can streamline the annual appropriations process. When Congress approves spending, Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service pulls apart the bill’s text to figure out which agencies and accounts get money. But the bureau is testing if an AI algorithm can read the PDFs and turn the text into structured, machine-readable data. The bureau’s Chief Data Officer Justin Marsico said the algorithm uses natural language processing to break down the documents. “They come in paragraph form. There’s not a standard approach, there’s not an easy way that you can train a robot to pull out the right numbers. You need to understand syntax and the structures of the sentences in order to pull the text apart.”
  • The Air Force loosens some of its restrictions on the way female airmen can wear their hair. The move is a continuation of the service changing its presentation standards to be more inclusive of other cultures and understanding of health issues. Women in the service may now wear their hair in two braids, or in a single braid or ponytail extending to the top of each sleeve inseam under the arm. Women airmen said previous standards damaged hair, caused headaches and in some cases caused hair loss.
  • Lloyd Austin is on the fast track to becoming defense secretary. President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon jumped two hurdles yesterday. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to advance his confirmation to the full Senate and the House voted to grant him a waiver to serve as defense secretary. Former General Lloyd Austin needs the waiver because he left the military less than seven years ago. Federal law states a defense secretary must be at least seven years removed from the service before taking the position. Some lawmakers are concerned that granting the waiver will cause issues with the civilian control of the military. (Federal News Network)
  • A lion of the federal contracting world has died. Dr. Phillip London, known as Jack, the executive chairman of CACI International, has died at the age of 83. A pioneer in the professional and IT services field, London joined the then-young firm in 1972, later serving as CEO for nearly a quarter century. He lead it through a series of acquisitions to bring it to is current multi-billion-dollar status. A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, London was also known for his rigorous ethical code.

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