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Nearly a third of the most popular federal websites failed an accessibility test for their home pages. A new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation says IRS, the Census Bureau and the Defense Department were among the sites with lowest scores. Section 508 requires agencies to follow web accessibility standards, but ITIF said reports on agency compliance haven’t been made public in over eight years. ITIF recommended that Congress, the White House and the General Services Administration work together to expand accessibility resources.
More House Democrats are calling on the Justice Department to allow immigration judges at the agency the right to unionize. Thirty-six members of the House Labor Caucus urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to recognize the National Association of Immigration Judges. The Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified the union last November following a petition from former Attorney General Bill Barr. House Democrats said DoJ should rescind Barr’s petition before the FLRA. They said failing to do so runs counter to the Biden administration’s previous directives on collective bargaining.
The State Department is gearing up for a hiring surge under the Biden administration’s budget plan. The State Department would add 500 new Foreign and Civil Service positions, if it gets the $58.5 billion outlined in the administration’s budget request. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the staffing increase would be the largest of its kind in a decade. Blinken said the budget would also build up the department’s staffing focused on emerging technology and the climate. “We have significant vacancies to fill and we also have to have new positions in order to deal with many of the challenges that have already been alluded to,” he said. (Federal News Network)
The IRS is facing a shortage of expert-level employees with IT skills. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said more than 600 of these highly-skilled employees out of over 7,000 are eligible for retirement in the next three years. Auditors suggest the IRS chief information officer tracks skill gaps, performs more interviews and uses a retention incentive program. In all, 50% of all IRS IT workers are eligible to retire by 2024.
The Office of Personnel Management will soon allow agencies to rehire former federal employees at higher grade levels than when they left government service. OPM finalized new regulations today. Agencies could previously rehire former employees at the same grade level they had when they left government service. Now agencies can hire at higher grade levels if employees return to federal service with more training and higher qualifications. OPM said the new policy will help agencies fill vacancies in especially difficult-to-fill occupations. The new regulations go into effect next month.
Army Futures Command is looking for soldiers and civilians to join its emerging technology opportunities program. The application window runs until July. The command’s Army Software Factory will take on 25 soldiers and five civilians and the Artificial Intelligence Integration Center will bring in 20 personnel. Those selected will build soldier-led software capabilities to improve the force and prepare the Army for AI weapons.
Members of the armed services and civilians will have a little longer before they need to renew their ID cards. The Pentagon is giving Defense Department personnel and beneficiaries a little longer to renew their credentials. Uniformed Services ID cards that expired between January 2020 and the end of July 2021 will be good for all National Guard and reserve service members and their dependents until the end of October. Retirees and their dependents will have until the end of January 2022 to renew their IDs. Foreign affiliates will not have as much time though; they will need to get new cards by the end of August. DoD is extending the process due to COVID-19.
The Pentagon will continue its policy banning LGBTQ flags on installations during Pride Month this year. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that after careful review the department will maintain its policy disallowing unofficial flags. The policy started last year when the Defense Department banned Confederate flags on bases. DoD policy only allows POW/MIA flags, U.S. flags, state flags, military unit flags and flags of allied countries.
The National Archives and Records Administration estimated it’ll take 18 to 24 months to resolve a backlog of records requests from veterans and the public. NARA’s National Personnel Records Center has roughly 500,000 pending records requests that built up during the pandemic. The records center said the backlog is stabilized now. It’s working with VA to digitize paper military records. It’s also asked the Pentagon to send in resources and personnel to help. But it hasn’t heard back yet. Veterans need these records to access VA benefits. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Veterans Affairs made a huge award to modernize its data network. In one of the largest awards under the General Services Administration’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), VA chose AT&T to modernize its data network. The task order is worth more than $725 million over 12 years. Through this award, VA will implement modern network architectures including managed network services that are highly secure, scalable and resilient. This is AT&T’s second EIS award from VA. It won a $58 million task order for collocating services in 2020. VA has made two other awards to Lumen also for collocating services and MetTel for voice services.
Government contractors are confident that their revenue will continue to increase in 2021. The 12th annual state of government contractor survey from Deltek finds more than a third of all respondents said revenue increased in 2020 as compared to 2019. Despite that increased revenue, contractors said their profitability was at the lowest at 6% on average since 2015. Part of the reason for the decrease in profitability is 57% of the respondents said the cost to comply with regulations increased.