GAO: Cost of cleaning up PFAS chemicals is only going to increase

In today's Federal Newscast, the Government Accountability Office estimates how much it's going to cost for the Defense Department to continue investigating and...

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  • An appeals court said four agencies did not violate free-speech rights by barring former employees from publishing information that could be considered classified. The decision backs last year’s district court ruling, which said the CIA, NSA, Defense Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s interest in concealing national secrets outweighed free-speech concerns. The agencies granted the five former employees access to classified information, but made them sign nondisclosure agreements for anything that would compromise national security. The former employees argue that agencies instead redacted information to save face.
  • The House supports President’s Biden 2.7% proposed pay raise for federal employees next year. House appropriators are silent on federal pay in their 2022 draft bill. That means they’ve deferred to the president’s recommended pay raise. The bill again freezes pay for the vice president and some political appointees in 2022. It also prohibits agencies from denying official time or telework to employees who have health or safety concerns. A House appropriations subcommittee will mark up the bill today. (Federal News Network)
  • House lawmakers offer the first look at their plans to fund IT modernization in 2022. The first pass at funding for the Technology Modernization Fund next year ends with “M,” not “B,” but it would still be a nice chunk of change. House Appropriations financial services and general government subcommittee lawmakers would allocate $50 million for the TMF next year. That’s well below the Biden administration’s request of $500 million and the $1 billion included in the American Rescue Fund Act. The subcommittee also is proposing $10 million for Office of Management and Budget’s IT Oversight and Reform Fund and $59 million for the General Services Administration’s Federal Citizen Services Fund.
  • The House Appropriations Committee supports more funding to complete a consolidated agency campus for the Department of Homeland Security. The committee’s financial services and general government spending bill would give the General Services Administration $254 million in next year’s budget to continue construction on the Saint Elizabeths campus in Southeast D.C. The project started more than a decade ago, and is on track to be completed by 2026.
  • The House moves forward with an IRS budget increase in line with the Biden administration’s proposal. The House Appropriations Committee is planning to give the IRS $13.6 billion next year. That includes a 35% increase in the agency’s budget to modernize legacy systems and improve IRS web applications. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said the budget would allow the IRS to fully staff and reopen Taxpayer Assistance Centers throughout the country. This comes as a federal advisory committee told Congress the IRS remains chronically underfunded, and that a depleted workforce and legacy IT rank as its top concerns.
  • President Biden at last named a second nominee to fill longstanding vacancies at the Merit Systems Protection Board. Biden tapped Raymond Limon to be MSPB vice chairman. He announced Cathy Harris as his choice for MSPB chairman almost two months ago. The Senate must confirm both nominees to restore a quorum to the MSPB. Limon is the Interior Department’s chief human capital officer and a career member of the Senior Executive Service. The MSPB has been without a quorum for over four years. (Federal News Network)
  • The Senate confirms President Joe Biden’s pick to run the General Services Administration. Robin Carnahan will lead GSA after leading the state and local government division of GSA’s 18F organization. Carnahan told senators during her confirmation hearing that the pandemic underscored the fragility of the country’s digital infrastructure, and would support agency IT modernization projects. Carnahan will also lead the White House’s efforts to make more vehicles in federal fleet zero-emission.
  • The federal government’s flagship leadership development program is struggling to attract diverse candidates. Fewer than 3% of finalists in the 2021 class of Presidential Management Fellows are Black. Fewer than 6% are Hispanic. 83% of current fellows are white. The Office of Personnel Management says it’s seen an unacceptable decline in the number of diverse candidates in recent years. It acknowledged the PMF program has sometimes failed to create an inclusive environment. OPM promised to improve. It’s reviewing the PMF application and assessment process. It will also revise the PMF training program. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department estimates it will cost $2.1 billion to continue investigating and cleaning up PFAS chemicals, but that number is likely to grow even higher. That’s because DoD is still in the early stages of investigating PFAS use at 687 installations around the country, according to the Government Accountability Office. DoD has already spent $1.1 billion on PFAS remediation. The chemicals are found in firefighting foams widely used by the military. PFAS can seep into the environment, and the EPA said exposure may have adverse effects on human health.
  • Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond said the next step in creating a Space National Guard is almost finished. The Space Force has long owed Congress a report on the impacts of a Space Guard. The report could influence the creation of a Space Guard in the 2022 defense authorization bill. The National Guard is already heavily involved in space operations with 2,000 space personnel in 14 units.
  • Key members of the House are joining in on legislation to change how some crimes are prosecuted in the military. Top members of the House Armed Services Committee are pushing forward a bill that would change the way the military prosecutes serious crimes in the armed services. The bill is similar to the one that has been championed by more than 60 lawmakers in the Senate. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Cal.) threw his weight behind the bill. The legislation is in for a fight after the nation’s top military officials said they are concerned the bill would interfere with good order and discipline.
  • Vendors have 10 more days to finalize their bids to earn a spot on the $40 billion IT services contract from NIH. NITAAC pushed back the proposal due date to July 8 for CIO-SP4 after a small delay in releasing the answers to industry questions. NITAAC expects to make several hundred awards early in 2022 for this 10-year contract.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a new multibillion dollar IT contract in place. The General Services Administration announced the 10-year, $2.1 billion NOAA Mission IT Services contract yesterday. It comes off GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule. GSA said NOAA will have access to more than 7.5 million products and services from more than 4,600 suppliers in the IT Category alone. The arrangement is a small business set-aside blanket purchase agreement. NOAA said it will use it to access IT tools and support ranging from enterprise services and cloud computing to data and voice network services.
  • For the Commerce Department, one thing has grown faster than variants of COVID-19. It’s trademark applications. Trademarks Commissioner David Gooder said as of last week, they were up 63%. That’s an extra 211,000 applications, relative to the same point last year. Last December alone more than 90,000 poured in. The result? Gooder said a backlog has developed and applicants will have to wait. But the office is hiring more examiners and making systems enhancements. He said one cause of the trademark surge is the pandemic-induced explosion in e-commerce.

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