GAO: F-35 sustainment costs may outweigh benefits of buying new ones

In today's Federal Newscast, the Government Accountability Office says DoD's plan to buy 2,500 F-35's may not be a good idea.

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  • The Defense Department wants to buy nearly 2,500 F-35 aircraft for about $400 billion, and it plans to spend another $1.27 trillion to operate and sustain them. But the Government Accountability Office says that’s not a good idea, and that F-35 sustainment costs have risen substantially over the years despite attempts to bring numbers down. A report issued Thursday says DoD faces tens of billions of dollars in sustainment costs that they project will be unaffordable. For example, the Air Force still needs to reduce estimated annual per-plane costs by 47% by the year 2036, or else costs in that year alone will be billions more than the service can afford.
  • The Pentagon is making a lot more use of special hiring authorities to beef up its cyber workforce. So far this year, DoD says it’s used direct hiring authorities for about a third of all of its new hires of civilian cyber professionals. Congress granted those authorities – which bypass the usual civil service hiring process – as a stopgap measure, while DoD works on implementing an entirely new personnel and pay system for its cyber workforce. That system, the Cyber Excepted Service, is making progress too. DoD says 6,500 employees across 10 organizations have made the transition so far. (Federal News Network)
  • An independent panel on sexual assault in the military is recommending a huge change. A commission on military sexual assault is suggesting that the Pentagon take sex crime prosecutions out of the chain of command. The recommendation has long been resisted by the military because it may degrade command discipline. However, recent data suggests sex offenders are not being prosecuted or punished for their actions, especially as sexual assault cases have risen. In recent years, high-profile lawmakers have championed the idea of an independent prosecutor for sex crimes. (Federal News Network)
  • President Biden has picked several more prospective officials to fill out the senior political ranks of the Pentagon. The White House says he plans to nominate Brenda Sue Fulton to be assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, and Shawn Skelly to be assistant secretary for readiness. Meanwhile, Christopher Maier would serve as assistant secretary for special operations and low intensity conflict, and Deborah Rosenblum would be the assistant secretary for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense. All of the nominations would need Senate confirmation.
  • President Biden picked Donald Remy to be his deputy secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Remy is an Army veteran and the current chief operating officer at the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He was a deputy assistant attorney general and managed the Justice Department’s torts branch. He also advised the Army general counsel on legal and policy issues and held several roles at Fannie Mae. The Biden administration says he’s an especially skilled problem solver and crisis manager.
  • The Pentagon is expected to release a strategy soon on how it will go forward with its Joint All Domain Command and Control program. The joint service system will connect multiple weapons over various domains to give warfighters a better picture of the battlefield and help them make decisions easier. The strategy will codify the Defense Department’s lines of effort on the program. DoD is also looking into an investment capital fund to speed up ways to integrate new technologies into the system. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General is working with a familiar organization on a new strategic plan. The National Academy of Public Administration should have an action plan and recommendations finished sometime this summer. NAPA will also help the DHS OIG implement recommendations from the Government Accountability Office. GAO raised concerns about the quality and timeliness of the IG’s work. It took the IG over 18 months to complete 35 projects in 2020. (Federal News Network)
  • The Biden administration will keep its limits on business travel for federal employees, for now. The administration is still discouraging official business travel even for fully vaccinated federal employees. Masks are still mandatory for those who must travel. But employees don’t need to test or quarantine before traveling inside or outside the United States. Fully vaccinated employees who return from international travel must still produce a negative COVID-19 test before coming back to U.S. (Federal News Network)
  • The Senate is joining the House in calling for the Office of Management and Budget to reduce or even remove the payback requirement for the Technology Modernization Fund. Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) wrote to OMB and GSA encouraging them to take steps to ensure agencies can rapidly respond to urgent technology and cybersecurity needs. The lawmakers say the repayment requirement remains important. OMB also should issue clear guidance so agencies understand the selection and repayment criteria. House lawmakers sent OMB and GSA a similar request last week.
  • There are 20 ways the Office of Personnel Management wants to improve how it listens to its customers. OPM took the first step to bring in experts to help its digital services teams. A new request for information details 20 support services ranging from user research and story collaboration to plain language content writing to agile and DevOps services. OPM is asking vendors to answer eight questions, including providing feedback on the functional areas and on the possible evaluation criteria. Through the vendor feedback, OPM plans to create a multiple award or blanket purchase agreement contract against which program offices will issue task orders. Responses to the RFI are due April 28.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are turning the Commerce Department headquarters into a weather tracker. The scientific agencies have installed a Doppler Light Detection and Ranging, or LIDAR instrument, to an existing weather station on top of the Hoover Building in Washington, D.C. to measure wind flow and turbulence in the lowest part of the atmosphere, as they study greenhouse gas emissions in the national capital area. The collaboration between NOAA and NIST is expected to increase understanding of urban wind, weather, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.
  • As if on cue, the State Department named the winners of its annual Greening Diplomacy Awards. Just as President Biden outlined his climate agenda, State highlighted its own people that have worked to green up missions and embassies around the world. Awards went to the U.S. Tri-Mission in Rome, which recycles 80% of its trash and purchased electric vehicles. Also to the New Delhi embassy, for recycling and composting to reduce carbon output. A mechanical engineer at the Amman embassy was cited for a variety of greening measures.

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