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Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is making another push to give federal employees a raise next year. He reintroduced the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates, or FAIR Act. This time the bill would give civilian federal employees an average 3.2% pay raise in 2022. It includes a 2.2% across-the-board raise, plus an additional 1% locality pay adjustment. Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced a House companion bill back in January. Both Schatz and Connolly have introduced similar bills over the last several years.
The Biden administration detailed a different tact than the previous White House when it comes to Congressional communications. A new memo from the Office of Management and Budget doesn’t necessarily relieve agencies from clearing all legislative proposals, testimony and other communications with them. But the memo encourages agency stakeholders to submit recommendations for the president’s action on the bill. The Trump administration’s February 2019 memo on clearance processes did not outwardly encourage this type of feedback.
Nominees for the Office of Management and Budget pledge to take on federal hiring and IT modernization. OMB nominees say creating a more diverse federal recruitment pool is a top priority if confirmed. So is IT modernization. Shalanda Young is the president’s pick to be deputy OMB director. She says she’s well aware of the many failed attempts to give agencies more funding for IT in the past. “From my current seat on the appropriations committee, it’s going to take resources. We’ve dealt with budget caps over the last ten years and when your choice is between programs that impact families and IT systems, sometimes IT systems have not won out.” (Federal News Network)
Two top union presidents are calling on President Biden to immediately fire Social Security Administration Commissioner Andrew Saul and Deputy Commissioner David Black. The American Federation of Government Employees and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers say SSA needs new leadership. They say the SSA commissioners have encouraged a union-busting culture and added unnecessary disability reviews during the pandemic. The unions pointed to a recent Supreme Court decision that found the removal protections for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director were unconstitutional. They say the SSA commissioner has those same removal protections.
Federal executive boards helped agencies save millions of dollars in 2020. The Office of Personnel Management estimates the 28 FEBs across the country saved agencies $7.5 million in employee training costs last year. They also sponsored alternative dispute resolution programs and helped settle 195 cases, to the tune of over $10 million. OPM says many FEBs worked with FEMA to host virtual webinars on pandemic safety and reopening strategies. Several FEBs hosted blood and community food drives.
Congress is taking a hard look at critical supply chain issues in the United States. The House Armed Services Committee is setting up a Critical Supply Chain Task Force. The organization will last three months and look into how the industrial base gets the goods it needs. The panel will be co-chaired by Representatives Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.). Six other lawmakers will also serve on the task force.
A top lawmaker says next year’s defense budget may look pretty similar to this year’s. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Calif.) says he’s expecting the military budget will end up at about $750 billion for 2022. That’s pretty similar to this year’s budget, however, it may take a lot of negotiating to get there. House Republicans are likely going to want to increase the budget to contend with the Defense Department’s growth models. Progressives have been interested in cutting the budget by as much as 10% and using those funds for domestic projects like health clinics and grants for schools.
The president would have a tougher time firing agency inspectors general under a new bill in the Senate. The Securing Inspector General Independence Act would require the president to give Congress a detailed explanation for firing a sitting inspector general at least 30 days before removing the watchdog from office. The bill also limits the administration from putting IGs on administrative leave. The bill introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) would also train IG employees on their whistleblower rights.
A bipartisan group of senators is calling on the State Department to set international norms on emerging tech. The Democracy Technology Partnership Act would create an interagency office within the State Department that would collaborate with other countries on rules of the road for 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other emerging technologies. The office would be led by a special ambassador for technology at State, along with deputies from the Commerce and Treasury Departments. The bill also creates a $5 billion Technology Partnership Fund to jump-start joint research projects between international agencies, universities and tech companies.
A bipartisan bill would increase federal contracting opportunities for small businesses. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced the PRICE Act, which would require the Office of Management and Budget to work with agency acquisition administrators to modernize contracting procedures. The senators say agencies have been reluctant to use the Small Business Administration’s contracting program, creating added hurdles for small businesses to compete in the federal marketplace.
More than 100 contractors won a spot on a mega intelligence community contract vehicles. The Defense Intelligence Agency picks 144 vendors, including 107 small businesses, for a spot on its Solutions for IT Enterprise or SITE III vehicle. The 10-year IDIQ contract has a $12.6 billion ceiling. Under SITE III, DIA and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency will be able to buy managed technology services with a goal of improving integration, information sharing and information safeguarding. This is DIA’s third multiple award contract for enterprise IT services but SITE III is a consolidation of three contracts–e-site, infrastructure sustainment and development and the Application DS2 solicitations.