Report: DoD’s lack of movement on modernization efforts could come back to haunt it

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  • A new report said the Defense Department should prepare for the “Terrible Twenties” as modernization due dates start to hit. The study from the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute said the Pentagon has been punting its responsibilities in the past. Now, DoD is taking the risk that something might break in a big way. The report said there is no easy way out of the fiscal bind and that leaders need to plan for mitigation, hard choices and planning for worst-case scenarios.
  • The Office of Management and Budget has a few reminders for the agencies responsible for distributing new COVID-19 relief funding. OMB said it will use human-centered design principles to distribute relief funding and achieve what it said are more equitable results. It will also work with the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee and agency inspector generals to ensure financial assistance is going to the right places. OMB said the guidance is consistent with President Joe Biden’s recent executive order on racial equity and his commitment to evidence-based policymaking.
  • The disability claims backlog at the Veterans Benefits Administration is up, thanks to the pandemic. VBA has 212,000 disability claims at least 125 days old. The inventory stood at 77,000 this time last year. VBA said it’s working with the contractors who handle the exams needed to determine whether veterans are eligible for certain benefits. But members of Congress aren’t convinced VBA has the right plans to address the backlog. VBA said it will cut the backlog to 140,000 pending claims by the end of September. (Federal News Network)
  • The Census Bureau used IRS records to enumerate 6 million people in the 2020 count, but Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said it should work more closely with the IRS in the 2030 count. Acting Director Ron Jarmin said the Bureau is starting work on a project that integrates census geospatial information with administrative records from other agencies. But Jarmin said IRS data has limits, since not all individuals in the U.S. file an annual tax return.
  • The Biden administration will preview the president’s 2022 budget request next week. The Office of Management and Budget said it will propose discretionary funding levels, top-line agency spending goals and guidance on additional agency investments to Congress. A more detailed budget request is expected later this spring. The goal is to give Congress some basic information so it can start the annual appropriations process. Most administrations submit their budget requests later than the usual February timeline during the first year in office.
  • The Postal Service sees brighter days ahead in its 10-year strategy. Through a combination of agency cost-cutting, funding and legislation from Congress, and permission from the Postal Regulatory Commission to relax first-class mail delivery standards, USPS expects to reach a break-even year as soon as 2023, and generate modest annual profits each year after that. By 2030, USPS will go from $160 billion in projected net losses to a $.2 billion net profit. While USPS seeks more time to deliver first-class mail the agency is looking to rollout same-day and next-day package services. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army said more of its soldiers are choosing to manage their own moves. Soldiers have always had the option of hiring their own moving companies, or simply renting a truck and taking a full do-it-yourself approach. But DoD changed its policies last year to reimburse for soldiers 100% of the cost of what the government would otherwise pay to moving companies. The Army wants to incentivize more soldiers to take the personally-procured move route, especially during the peak summer moving season. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army makes progress in reducing training mishaps. General Joseph Martin, vice chief of staff for the Army, tells the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness that training accidents are the lowest they’ve been in years. He said Army aviation mishaps hit their lowest point in the last ten years, while maintaining the highest readiness. Ground vehicle mishaps are the lowest since 1972. Thirteen soldiers have died in training accidents thus far in fiscal 2021.
  • Changes to the way the Army reports accidents are yielding more data. Gen. Joseph Martin, vice chief of staff for the Army, told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness that a new system implemented in October has increased compliance and timeliness by 97% percent. The Army safety management information system makes it easier to report minor accidents. It also allows anonymous reporting.
  • The Air Force said 3D printers lead to better-trained airmen. Gen. David Allvin, vice chief of staff for the Air Force, tells the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness that single vendor lock-in makes it harder to get parts for aircraft. With diminishing sources to get those parts, aircraft become unable to fly. But investments in additive manufacturing, like 3D printers, allows the Air Force to make the parts itself in some cases. This means more planes are available to fly, and pilots get more training hours.
  • Members of the Air Force who want to get ahead in their career should break out their reading glasses. The service’s top airman is updating suggestions for what troops should read. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown said he’s an avid reader. As such, he’s creating a leadership library that will evolve as new ideas are published, recorded and debated. Brown’s list isn’t just stuffy books about military tactics — it includes a Netflix documentary called “The Playbook,” which interviews legendary sports coaches about leadership. The list also recommends a podcast episode, which talks about revolutionary ideas in the military, and the book “The Infinite Game,” about building more innovative organizations.
  • The National Park Service has a new selling point: The benefits to visitors that come through their ears. A just-out study published by the National Academy of Sciences manages to quantify the beneficial effects of the sounds of nature, minus the noise of mankind. The authors’ test bed consisted of 221 locations in 68 parks. Few sites had no noise and only natural sound, but even those with a mixture had positive health effects on people. The authors said their findings could lead to park layout changes to enhance what they call the “soundscape.”

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