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Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) says the House will go along with the president’s proposed pay raise for federal employees next year. She said the House draft of the 2022 financial services and general government bill will support a 2.7% raise. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to release the text for that bill as soon as today. The appropriations subcommittee will mark up the legislation later this week. Wexton said she’d prefer a bigger pay raise for federal employees. She’s a co-sponsor of a bill that would give employees a three-point-two percent raise next year. (Federal News Network)
The Office of Personnel Management has a permanent director for the first time in over a year. The Senate confirmed Kiran Ahuja as the OPM director in a tight vote. Vice President Kamala Harris cast a vote to break a 50-50 tie. No Senate Republicans voted for Ahuja over their concerns about her views on abortion and her support for an anti-racist scholar. She’ll be the first South Asian and first Asian American woman to lead OPM. Five different people led the agency in the previous administration. (Federal News Network)
Unproductive federal programs would get canned under a new bipartisan bill. Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced the act, which will have agencies present a list of wasteful programs to the Office of Management and Budget. OMB will work with Congress to decide whether the programs should survive. The bill is designed to root out ineffective spending in the government. Backers claim it would save taxpayers $3.1 billion over the next ten years. (Senator Maggie Hassan)
Republican senators introduce a bill to bar IRS employees from leaving their workstations to use official time during the tax filing season. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) is leading six other senators in introducing the IRS Customer Service Improvement Act. Braun said the bill’s restrictions on time usage would address the agency’s workload, because a quarter of IRS employees who used official time in 2019 hold customer service or call centers jobs. The National Taxpayer Advocate finds the IRS received 100 million calls last year, but only answered 24 million. (Senator Mike Braun)
A handful Defense Department nominees are one step closer to being confirmed. The Senate Armed Services Committee advanced the nominations of Gina Ortiz Jones to be the second-ranking civilian official in the Air Force and Shawn Skelly to be the assistant secretary of defense for readiness. Other advancements include Caroline Krass to be Defense Department general counsel and Meredith Berger to be assistant Navy secretary for energy, installations and environment.
The National Guard is in need of $500 million to keep training going over the summer. The past year was one of the busiest in history for the National Guard as it responded to COVID, natural disasters and civil unrest. The five months it spent protecting the Capitol after an attack from a pro-Trump mob may cost the military component some serious training time. Army officials say if Congress can’t pass a supplemental bill soon then the Guard will be forced to cancel many planned exercises for this summer. That could potentially jeopardize aviation and ground support readiness. (Federal News Network)
The leaders of the military services are pushing back against a popular bill that would take nonmilitary crimes out of the chain of command. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said removing commanders from prosecution decisions could affect readiness and loyalty between commanders and those they lead. The service chiefs were still largely open to taking the prosecutions of sexual assaults outside of the chain of command. The bill changing military law has more than 60 co-sponsors in the Senate. (Federal News Network)
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he’s in favor of revamping the military’s system for prosecuting sexual assault cases. In a statement last night, Austin said DoD will work with Congress to take those prosecutions out of the military chain of command. His decision follows recommendations from an independent review committee Austin appointed early in his tenure. That panel recommended a new prosecution system for a variety of crimes, including domestic violence. Austin’s decision comes just after several top uniformed leaders wrote to Congress, saying they have serious misgivings about removing prosecutions from the chain of command.
The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Accreditation Body just authorized Redspin and Kratos as the very first certified third party assessment organizations (C3PAOs). CMMC AB chief executive Matthew Travis said the C3PAOs could be cleared to do assessments as early as mid-July. But first, they need the Defense Department and the AB to finalize assessment guidance, and set up an IT system for tracking CMMC scores. Travis also said any timelines are contingent on the outcome of a CMMC review by new Biden administration officials. That review is expected to conclude soon.
When it came to the SolarWinds cyber attack, the private sector was in no better shape than the government to stop or block the attack. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency told Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that it is not aware of any public or private sector organization that has successfully deployed technology that would’ve detected deviations from normal network behavior that would have been detected and/or prevented the SolarWinds incident. CISA said it also doesn’t know how many agencies have segmented their networks to prevent hackers from network hopping once they break through the cyber defenses.
The Department of Homeland Security sets sail on a years-long journey of setting up new cybersecurity measures within the agency. A zero-trust action group will work in three to four month sprints, first starting with conditional access and rights management, to build a zero trust architecture. CIO Eric Hysen said this work should be considered a marathon and not a sprint. The efforts are part of the Biden Administration’s executive order on improving cybersecurity, which invested $1 billion into DHS.
One industry association said it’s time to reimagine governmentwide acquisition contracts. The basic theories that underpin governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs) haven’t been reformed for more than 25 years. The Alliance for Digital Innovation, an industry association, wants to change that. In a new white paper, ADI makes seven recommendations ranging from having more on-ramps for new vendors to taking more advantage of private sector past performance. ADI said the recommendations are a combination of some of the innovations happening in government today and some of the pain points contractors are facing with GWACs.
The Government Accountability Office said the Social Security Administration should reconsider performance expectations for its administrative law judges. SSA wants administrative law judges to issue between 500 and 700 decisions or dismissals a year. But 87% of ALJs told GAO the expectations are too high. Over 80% of judges met SSA’s goal in 2019. But 18% met the goals last year during the pandemic. Judges said telework restrictions and the size of case files are the main reasons why they’re not meeting SSA’s goals. Case files are five times bigger today than they were when SSA first set performance goals in 2007.
After nearly 15 months of virtual arguments, the Federal Circuit plans to allow in person arguments again starting in late August. Law 360 reports that it will first test out new COVID-19 protocols with two cases next month. U.S. Chief Circuit Judge Kimberly A. Moore issued an order Tuesday directing the court’s clerk to “resume scheduling in-person arguments beginning with the September 2021 session,” but left room for cases before then to “proceed as notified.”
Attorneys general from 20 states and the District of Columbia challenge the Postal Service’s plan to slow first-class mail. The states’ attorneys general tell the Postal Regulatory Commission that USPS plans to slow the delivery of nearly 40% of first-class mail would hurt on-time delivery of election mail. Many of the states joined lawsuits last year challenging USPS operational changes ahead of the 2020 election. The states said the changes would especially hurt rural and low-income residents with few alternatives from USPS delivery. Attorneys representing New York City and San Francisco joined the states in filing their comments. (Federal News Network)
The Interior Department confronts the troubled history of federal boarding schools for Native Americans. Secretary Deborah Haaland said the newly launched Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative will publish all the information it can gather about treatment of Indians at the schools, first established in 1819. They went defunct in the 1960s. The network of schools was designed to uproot Indian children and culturally assimilate them. In an open letter, Haaland said that policy ran counter to the doctrine of trust responsibility of the federal government, with respect to Indians. She added harsh treatment of Indian children still resonates. Haaland said the recent discovery of unmarked graves at a school site in Canada prompted the latter-day accounting.