USPS could face some difficulty in buying the gas-powered fleet it wants

In today's Federal Newscast, House Democrats seek to block the Postal Service from buying mostly gas-powered vehicles as part of its next generation fleet.

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  • The omnibus federal spending bill sets higher maximum salaries for some Department of Veterans Affairs health care workers. Congress passed the RAISE Act as part of the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2022. The bill sets higher pay caps for advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, and registered nurses. VA Secretary Denis McDonough has repeatedly urged lawmakers to pass the RAISE Act, and said the legislation would go a long way toward helping the agency recruit and retain in-demand health care workers. The VA is dealing with the highest rate of turnover among its nurses in 15 years. (Federal News Network)
  • House lawmakers are joining their counterparts in the Senate to try to change the federal hiring process. Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Jody Hice (R-Ga.) introduced their version of the Chance to Compete Act that would require the federal hiring process be more merit-based as demonstrated by actual assessments of skills. Among the changes the bill includes are a provision to let agencies use subject-matter experts to administer skills-based assessments and another one that lets them share pools of applicants for similar positions. Sens. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) introduced their version of the bill in January.
  • House Democrats seek to block the Postal Service from buying mostly gas-powered vehicles as part of its next generation fleet. House Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) leads 68 other representatives in introducing the Green Postal Service Fleet Act. The bill would prohibit USPS from carrying out any new purchase of a new fleet of delivery vehicles unless 75% of the new vehicles are electric or zero-emission. USPS expects electric vehicles make up about 10% of its next-generation fleet, but says it will buy more if Congress sets aside money for the project.
  • After 18 months, GSA is ready to expand the program to make it easier to buy products through online portals. With 20 agencies now using the online commercial platforms and customer feedback high, GSA is asking industry how to evolve the program. In a new request for information, GSA asks contractors what the next generation platform should look like. Based on feedback from agency users, GSA wants to know how to create more of a managed channel for open-market online spending. This RFI comes after Congress told GSA in the 2022 Defense authorization bill to test other platform options. GSA told lawmakers last summer it had not planned to do that. Responses to the RFI are due March 30.
  • The $1.5 trillion omnibus has a large sum of money to help the Navy clean up water issues. More than $686 million will go to the Navy for water mitigation efforts in Hawaii, where water sources have been tainted by jet fuel spillage. The funds come just days after the Defense Department announced it would close its massive Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility. About $150 million of the appropriations will go to defueling and permanently closing the facility. The rest of the money will go to helping families affected by the leakage and environmental cleanup. (Federal News Network)
  • A group of former reservists are suing the Department of the Navy for not getting access to proper disability benefits. The case alleges that the Navy’s bureaucracy makes it prohibitive for reservists to apply for benefits when retiring. The law suit asks for declaratory and injunction relief through the Administrative Procedure Act. (Federal News Network)
  • President Joe Biden says he plans to nominate Russell Rumbaugh as the Navy department’s top financial management official. Rumbaugh currently works as a systems director at the Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy. Before that, he served as a budget expert for multiple D.C. think tanks and for DoD’s office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation. The Navy comptroller’s position is one of many top civilian leadership jobs that have been vacant since the start of the Biden administration.
  • The Pentagon picks a leader for its new Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence office. Margie Palmieri, who founded the Navy’s digital warfare office, will hold the title of deputy CDAO. DoD says she’ll lead the executive team the department created last month to harmonize its AI and data management functions. Meanwhile, David Spirk, who’s served as DoD’s chief data officer since 2020, departed his position on Friday. (Federal News Network)
  • The intelligence community’s research arm is launching an ambitious biometrics identification effort. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency announced the Biometric Recognition & Identification at Altitude and Range program last week. IARPA says the multi-year program seeks to develop software that can perform biometric identification from great heights and at long ranges. The software would ideally work to ID individuals from photos and videos taken at high altitudes from platforms like unmanned aerial vehicles. The agency has awarded research contracts to seven companies and universities.
  • Congress is cutting requested funds for the Department of Homeland Security’s troubled biometrics system. The omnibus spending agreement includes $25 million less than what DHS requested for the new Homeland Security Advanced Recognition Technology system. Lawmakers point to ongoing cost, schedule, and performance challenges with the HART system. DHS had to re-baseline the program last year. Now lawmakers want an independent evaluation of those revised program plans. And the spending agreement also shifts funds to continue maintaining the agency’s legacy biometrics system.

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