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New features are coming to the Thrift Savings Plan, including a mobile app, security functions and a live chat bot that can answer participant questions. Participants will be able to use their phones to scan checks into their accounts, like most other mobile banking apps. The new features are part of a broader modernization initiative at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board and will be available sometime next summer.
The Office of Management and Budget is requiring agencies to report more grant spending data in the years ahead. Starting October 2022, OMB will require agencies to report grant agreements that have been extended, terminated, or pulled over a lack of available funds on USASpending.gov. By 2023, agencies must also provide Funding Opportunity Numbers associated with each grant award, as well as the text of the grant notice provided to applicants. OMB is providing this guidance as part of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act.
Laurel Blatchford is President Joe Biden’s nominee for controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management, part of the Office of Management and Budget. Blatchford at the moment is managing director of the philanthropic group Blue Meridian Partners. She’s a known figure, having been chief of staff at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration. Blatchford also ran the Hurricane Sandy Task Force, which doled out disaster resilience money after the 2012 storm damaged parts of New York and New Jersey. If confirmed by the Senate, Blatchford would be the first OMB controller in more than five years.
The president issued a slew of nominations to high-level policy and operational posts. He nominated long-time patent and intellectual property litigator Kathi Vidal to run the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, part of the Commerce Department. She’s now managing partner of the Silicon Valley office of the law firm Winston and Strawn. At the Federal Communications Commission, Biden named the current chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, to another term. And former FCC counselor Gigi Sohn as commissioner. If they’re confirmed, the FCC would have all five commission chairs filled while Sohn would be the first openly LGBTIQ+ commissioner in the history of the FCC.
The Biden administration tapped a new official to oversee election security. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency announced Kim Wyman will serve as CISA’s Senior Election Security Lead. Wyman is a Republican who currently serves as Washington’s secretary of state, a position she’s held since 2012. At CISA, she’ll be responsible for working with state and local officials to ensure the integrity of U.S. elections. Wyman will make the transition to her new CISA role later this year.
DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is looking to hire a new chief for its responsible AI division. The civil service position heads up DoD’s efforts to operationalize its AI ethics principles, among other tasks, according to the a position description the JAIC posted recently. The opening comes after Alka Patel stepped down earlier this month. She served as the first responsible AI chief starting in February of last year.
Defense Department leaders told Congress on Tuesday that automation and artificial intelligence are helping highly skilled civilian employees work smarter and better. Even though the technologies complete some tasks for workers, they are not taking over jobs any time soon. DoD said it’s constantly evaluating its workforce, but at this point AI and other advancements aren’t going to help cut staff any time soon. (Federal News Network)
Earlier this year the Government Accountability Office reported that women troops were spending more on required military clothing than men. Now lawmakers want to make up for that. Women service members are currently paying hundreds of dollars more out-of-pocket for clothing required by the military compared to men. In April, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would give women a one-time allowance to make up for the disparity in cost. Now the Senate is getting involved too. A new bill would require the Defense Department to develop specific criteria to determine what items of clothing are considered uniquely military for uniforms. It would also require the Pentagon to review military service plans for uniform changes. (Federal News Network)
Agency reentry plans varied considerably across government, at least in the early days of the pandemic. The Government Accountability Office said most agencies made plans to bring their employees back to the office in phases. But agencies moved through those phases last year with different speeds. And the Trump administration didn’t have much oversight over those reentry plans. GAO said agencies have since developed more comprehensive and thorough plans to bring employees safely back into the office. (Federal News Network)
Enterprise risk management as a full-time and budgeted effort across agencies made significant headway in 2021. A new survey by the Association for Federal Enterprise Risk Management and Guidehouse found 31% of the respondents are spending more time focus solely on managing their agency’s risk, and 34% say they have a budget of at least $1 million. Both of these figures are the highest in the survey’s seven-year history. Cybersecurity and privacy remain the biggest risk area, while training and awareness are the major focus areas for risk managers for a fourth year in a row.
A top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee linked IRS backlogs to the Postal Service. Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) is asking the IRS if mail delays are taking a toll on its operations. The lawmaker asks IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig how much the IRS spends on postage each year for taxpayer correspondence, and whether IRS officials have spoken to USPS about pricing or delivery times for mail it sends to taxpayers. Pascrell also asks how new, slower USPS delivery standards for some first-class mail will impact the IRS’ ability to correspond with taxpayers.
A House bill would help protect whistleblowers at the Department of Homeland Security. The Homeland Security Committee approved legislation yesterday that would require the DHS inspector general to share unredacted reports with Congress when it substantiates allegations of whistleblower retaliation. The IG would also be required to share reports that confirm fraud, waste and abuse by senior DHS officials. The committee also approved several other bills related to cybersecurity oversight, acquisitions, and civil liberties at DHS.
GSA’s catalog of products and services is about to get whole lot better. The General Services Administration continues to give the multiple award schedules a much-needed facelift. Its latest change will modernize the catalog of products and services under the schedules program. GSA awarded a contract to CGI federal to replace the legacy desktop-based Schedule Input Program or SIP, with a modern, Application Programming Interface-accessible, web application for managing catalog data. GSA said the common catalog platform will integrate with contracting systems to streamline the offer and modification process, reduce the administrative burden of managing vendor catalogs and improve data quality.