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Members of the U.S. military aren’t getting enough sleep, and the Pentagon thinks it’s a significant problem. A new DoD study estimates 64% of servicemembers routinely sleep for less than seven hours a night. That’s nearly double the rate of sleep deprivation among the general public. The authors said shorter sleep cycles are totally understandable during active military operations, but problems arise when it’s a fact of life. The study points to evidence of impaired judgement, a higher incidence of PTSD and decreased combat effectiveness. Soldiers who were sleep deprived for two days, for example, were 61% less accurate in hitting targets with small weapons.
Top officials in the Biden administration are promising to set a new tone with the federal workforce. The Office of Management and Budget says rebuilding the workforce is a goal after the last four years. “I’m well aware that the task before us is no small one,” said OMB official Pam Coleman. “In my less than one month here, I’ve come to learn anecdotally and quantitatively just how systematically the federal workforce has been damaged, disrespected and demoralized over the last few years. Each week we seem to uncover even more damage.” (Federal News Network)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acknowledges a lot changed since he left USDA four years ago. He sent a video and an email last week to the USDA workforce. Vilsack said he’s looking forward to hearing from employees about their ideas for building a more modern workforce and workplace. He said he understands the importance of USDA’s research bureaus. He named the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture by name. And Vilsack said he’s focused on improving USDA’s standing in the annual Best Places to Work rankings. (Federal News Network)
The IRS hasn’t fully identified all the risks it’ll face in this year’s filing season, but the Government Accountability Office said there’s lessons the agency can learn from last year’s rollout. The IRS ended 2020 with a backlog of 13 million tax returns, nearly all of them paper forms sent through the mail. The agency spent more than 100 days on average processing tax returns last October. That’s compared to its target of 13 days.
Explosives are dangerous enough in the moment, but they may have more long-term effects than previously thought for members of the military. A new Army-funded study shows that soldiers exposed to shockwaves from military explosives are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, even if they didn’t get a brain injury from the blast. Researchers say the study may help explain why many individuals returning from warzones without detectable brain injuries still suffer from neurological symptoms like depression, headaches and memory problems. The Defense Department is beginning to test more often for brain injuries after combat and training.
The Air Force is making its officer stratification process more transparent so airmen can understand how they pair up against other people in their rank. Officer stratification is like a class ranking for airmen and compares them to people in the same point of their career. However, those stratifications were sometimes out of whack depending on how they were compared. Starting in April, officers will only be stratified against people in the same grade, command positions or duty position.
The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence made the federal workforce a top priority in its final report. The commission urged Congress to create a Digital Service Academy. The concept is modeled after the five current military service academies, and would train tech talent with the same seriousness that the Defense Department has for training military officers. Students would have their tuition paid for, in exchange for a five-year commitment to work in civilian federal agency. Former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, the commission’s vice chairman, said the academy has board support from lawmakers.
Mergers and acquisitions in the federal market continue at a break-neck speed. This time Maximus is buying the federal business of Attain for $430 million. Attain, a medium sized business, is known for providing IT services in the artificial intelligence and machine learning areas. Attain earned $171 million in 2019 and $159 million in 2020 in federal revenue. It’s biggest federal clients include the Securities and Exchange Commission and the departments of Defense and Health and Human Services. Maximus earned over $1 billion in federal revenue in 2020 but very little of it from DoD. (Yahoo)
Hope is still alive for Congress to give big money to IT modernization funding. A draft amendment to the American Rescue Plan would give the Technology Modernization Fund $1 billion. Federal News Network obtained a copy of the manager’s amendment that is expected to be introduced later this week during the Senate’s debate of the latest COVID-19 relief bill. The draft bill also would give the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency $650 million for federal network security. It would allocate $200 million for the U.S. Digital Service and another $150 million for GSA’s Federal Citizen Services Fund. In all, the Senate wants to appropriate almost $2 billion in federal IT and cyber funding to address long-standing challenges. (Federal News Network)
When you add it all up, the United States has sunk a lot of capital into Afghanistan with little to show for it. $2.4 billion down the drain. That’s the figure in a summary report requested by Congress of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. It’s the total value of capital assets in Afghanistan that will go unused, used for some other purpose, crumbling or destroyed altogether. That’s about a third of the $7.8 billion in total capital spending. The wreckage includes buildings, roads, even fleets of aircraft.