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The Small Business Administration marked the closure of its biggest program ever. The Paycheck Protection Program, a feature of the 2020 legislation to help the country during the pandemic, has ended. SBA in a statement said the PPP loaned or gave money to some 8.5 million small businesses and non-profits, to the tune of $798 billion. Administrator Casillas Guzman said that in 2021, nearly all of the loans went to businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Loans this year averaged $42,000.
When will federal employees get the call to return to the office? Probably not before mid-July. Agencies have until July 19 to finalize and submit reentry plans for their employees and contractors. The plans must go to the Office of Management and Budget. They should describe a phased schedule for bringing more people back to the work site. The Biden administration said agencies must finalize these plans, satisfy collective bargaining obligations and give employees enough advanced notice before calling them back to the office. (Federal News Network)
Accenture Federal Services is getting on the mergers and acquisitions bandwagon. The professional services company is buying Novetta, an advanced analytics company. Novetta won more than $70 million in federal contracts in fiscal 2020 with its largest customers being the Defense Department and the departments of Justice and State. The company also has a spot on governmentwide contracts like CIO-SP3 and OASIS. Terms of the agreement with Accenture Federal Services were not disclosed.
Several agencies are trying again to get congressional approval for IT working capital funds. The Department of Labor, the Office of Personnel Management and the U.S. Agency for International Development are making plans to bank unused funding for IT modernization initiatives. In President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2022 budget request to Congress, these three agencies propose high level insights for how much money or how they would use the money to move off legacy systems. For example, USAID, which is asking for IT working capital fund authority for at least a third year in a row, would transfer 5% or up to $30 million to the fund. (Federal News Network)
The Pentagon is reaffirming a set of ethical principles created under the Trump administration surrounding artificial intelligence. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks signed a memo last week that reinforces five values around the use of AI. Those include using judgement and care while remaining responsible about the development, deployment and use of AI and taking deliberate steps to minimize unintended bias in AI capabilities.
Education programs are taking a big hit in the Navy’s 2022 budget proposal. Last year, the Navy made big investments in higher learning after its Education for Seapower Study found it had been undervaluing formal education. Officials now say they’re reexamining that strategy, and next year’s budget calls for cuts to the U.S. Naval Academy, the Naval Postgraduate School and the Naval War College. In all, higher education funding would drop from $615 million in spending in 2021 to just $498 million in 2022. The new Naval Community College would get a very slight boost, but less than officials had previously planned.
The Coast Guard has been asking for an increase in funds for years, but the White House’s 2022 budget keeps things mostly flat. The Biden administration is asking for $13.1 billion for the Coast Guard in 2022. That’s a $300 million increase from what the service ended up with this year. The Coast Guard has long been saying that it is lagging in readiness, and needs funds to take care of maintenance backlogs. The 2022 budget pays for a 2.7% increase in service member and civilian pay. It also provides funds to continue procuring new icebreaker ships. The nation’s only functioning icebreaker is now 45 years old. (Federal News Network)
The Interior Department could see a 17% increase in funding, from $15 billion in fiscal 2021 to $17.6 billion in 2022, as proposed in President Joe Biden’s request to Congress. Interior plans to spend its increased funding on projects and programs focused on climate resilience and environmental justice efforts. The proposal includes $1.9 billion for climate-related investments, such as wildland fire management, drought mitigation and science-based investments. Interior also wants $300 million to support the decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure.
A new partnership between the National Science Foundation and NASA aims to get more underrepresented populations into engineering fields. NASA’s Minority University Research and Education program will team with NSF’s Broadening Participation in Engineering program to create coalitions of public and private organizations to develop a diverse engineering workforce. These initiatives include educational experiences for students from kindergarten through college, professional development of educators, new course and curriculum development and workforce inclusion research.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is looking for feedback as it considers future health care policies. VA will hold a handful of virtual listening sessions this month with veterans. Feedback from those sessions will inform recommendations that VA will submit to the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission in January. The AIR Commission is developing its own recommendations for the president and Congress. The commission will consider ways to modernize VA health care and realign the department’s facilities to meet those needs.
The IRS is meeting all requirements to expedite the hiring of bonus-eligible tech leaders. It’s using its streamlined critical pay authority to bring seven employees onboard, and is looking to hire three more employees under this authority in the near term. The Treasury Inspector General to Tax Administration found the agency is adhering to limits under this authority. Streamlined critical pay hires can work at the agency for up to four years, and can be paid as much as a quarter million dollars annually. Congress let this authority for the IRS lapse in 2013, but reinstated it under the 2019 Taxpayer First Act. (Federal News Network)
The IRS is seeking applicants to join its board of tax professionals that advise the agency’s commissioner. The Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council is accepting applications through July 9 for terms that begin next January. The board makes recommendations that would improve IRS operations and strengthen taxpayer services. Applicants must be in good standing with the IRS and have their own tax obligations settled before applying.