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The final piece that will give hourly employees who work for contractors a raise to $15 an hour is in place. The Federal Acquisition Regulations Council issued an interim rule today requiring agencies add the new federal minimum wage clause to all contracts or option periods awarded on or after Jan. 30. The Labor Department will decide each January thereafter whether to increase the minimum wage for the next 12 months. President Joe Biden issued an executive order in April mandating the increase that would take the contractor minimum wage from $11.25 to $15/hour.
The cyber workforce ranks among the least diverse segments of the federal government. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finds women and people of color hold IT leadership positions at a lower rate than in the rest of federal government. Women also make up less than 30% of the IT workforce, compared to about 45% of the total federal workforce. Dexter Brooks, the associate director of EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations, says that makes cyber and IT one of the least diverse parts of government. But he says agencies don’t have good enough data to understand the barriers to advancement, “The data can’t tell you what you need to know, if the data’s not available.”
President Joe Biden is nominating six lawyers to run U.S. attorney’s offices across the country, with an eye towards diversity. The nominees include the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney in Utah and the first Black woman to serve as U.S. attorney in Connecticut. The other nominees would run the federal prosecutors’ offices in Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. Biden has now nominated 43 people to serve as U.S. attorneys, positions that have been filled for months by acting U.S. attorneys. (Associated Press)
Federal technology executives are reshaping their workforces. When it comes to bringing in emerging technologies, agency IT executives aren’t leaning on contractors as much as they used to. A new CIO survey from the Professional Services Council and Maximus found respondents are hiring, training and upskilling employees to manage and work with technologies like AI, machine learning and robotics process automation more than ever before. The survey also found IT modernization and cybersecurity remain CIOs’ top priorities. Data management and using data as a strategic asset also became a bigger priority over the past year as compared to previous surveys.
Between the pandemic, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters, the National Guard has been busy over the last couple of years. But the operational tempo hasn’t hurt retention. Quite the opposite. The Army National Guard beat its retention goal by a wide margin last year, reenlisting 116% of the number of citizen-soldiers it aimed to retain in 2021. That’s up dramatically from just two years ago, when the Army Guard only met 87% of its retention goal. (Federal News Network)
The House Armed Services Committee is losing another one of its top members. Representative Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) says he will not run for reelection after this term ends. Cooper currently heads the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. He is one of the main architects of the Space Force, long before it caught the eye of former President Donald Trump. Cooper joins more than 40 other lawmakers who have announced they will not seek reelection in 2022. Cooper did not indicate what he will do after he leaves Congress.
The Army is creating a certification program for civilians who manage housing on military bases. The curriculum will include fundamentals like budgeting, conflict resolution, fair housing and housing inspects. The certification is part of a larger effort to offer credentialing to Army civilians in order to advance their expertise in functional areas.
A key leader at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is leaving. Bob Kolasky will step down as head of the National Risk Management Center. His last day is Feb. 25. The NRMC monitors major risks to U.S. critical infrastructure, ranging from cyber attacks to climate change. Kolasky has led the center since it was established nearly four years ago. CISA Director Jen Easterly saluted Kolasky for playing an “integral” role in advancing the agency’s mission. His replacement has yet to be announced.
The Defense Information Systems Agency is moving forward with its signature zero trust cybersecurity project. DISA awarded Booz Allen Hamilton a $6.8 million deal to develop the “Thunderdome” prototype. Booz Allen will be responsible for building out the security architecture within six months. The prototype is intended to be capable of scaling across Defense Department networks. The agency says the project will take advantage of commercial technologies like Secure Access Service Edge and Software Defined-Wide Area Networks.
A forthcoming zero trust strategy gives agencies a chance to overhaul how employees and citizens access government systems. The adoption of zero trust measures is meant to improve cybersecurity, but the White House’s strategy should also give agencies a chance to improve how users access federal systems. The White House Office of Management and Budget is emphasizing modern log-in measures, like biometrics and platform-based authentication. That’s according to Eric Mill, senior advisor to the federal chief information officer. “There’s an opportunity here to enable some very new user experiences. But we haven’t really had the opportunity to revisit assumptions around how users log into systems for a long time.” (Federal News Network)
Public satisfaction in federal customer experience reached an-time low last year, according to a scorecard that’s been tracking this for decades. The American Customer Satisfaction Index finds citizen satisfaction with government services fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2021. The Interior Department received the highest score of all agencies, based on a survey of more than 2,300 individuals, while the Treasury Department received the lowest score. But another scorecard tells a different story. The federal customer experience index from Forrester shows agencies last year had the highest overall scores since the company started tracking these metrics in 2015.
The agency that runs the Thrift Savings Plan expects to allow participants to have access to mutual funds by this summer. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board is creating a mutual fund window that would give individuals the ability to buy shares of mutual funds. Congress gave the board the authority to create a mutual fund window back in 2009, after nearly 40% of survey respondents said it would improve the TSP. Participants who choose to invest in mutual funds will pay a $95 annual fee, and a per-trade fee of $28.75.