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Several bills impacting the federal workforce are moving forward in Congress. The House Oversight and Reform Committee passed the Change to Compete Act, which would require federal agencies to evaluate candidates based on their skills for a position, rather than on education level. The committee also advanced the Honoring Civil Servants Killed in the Line of Duty Act, which would grant $100,000 as the standard death gratuity payment for civilian federal employees killed in the line of duty.
A bill to address a backlog of veterans’ records at the National Archives and Records Administration makes it out of committee. The House Oversight and Reform Committee advances the Access for Veterans to Records Act, which would give NARA $60 million to address its backlog of veterans records requests at its National Personnel Records Center. The funding would go toward updating its IT systems, its electronic records archive, and improve turnaround for Freedom of Information Act requests.
To continue enhancing worker protections in the legislative branch, the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights is requesting a flat budget for fiscal 2023. That’s the same as its current budget for 2022, totaling $7.5 million. At the OCWR’s budget request hearing on April 5th, the agency said that the funding request would help achieve its overall mission — that’s in part to prioritize health, safety and accessibility for legislative employees. 70% of OCWR’s budget goes toward pay and benefits for the legislative workforce.
Lawmakers want to ensure reports of misconduct at one of the largest federal agencies see the light of day. The House passed the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Transparency Act this week. The bill would require the DHS IG to publicly release any report that substantiates allegations of wrongdoing by a member of the senior executive service or a political appointee. The IG would also have to release reports that confirm fraud, waste, and abuse, or whistleblower retaliation.
One of the longest inspector general vacancies in the federal government is now filled. The Senate confirms Krista Boyd, former chief counsel for the House Oversight and Reform Committee, to serve as the permanent IG for the Office of Personnel Management. OPM has been without a permanent IG for more than six years. The Defense Department has gone the longest without a permanent IG but that vacancy is only a few weeks longer than the one that had been in place at OPM.
A long-awaited postal reform bill is now law, and the Postal Service seeks to raise prices. USPS is seeking approval from its regulator to once again raise first-class mail prices, this time by about 6.5%. That would increase the price of a first-class stamp to 60 cents. A single first-class stamp cost just 50 cents prior to January 2019. USPS announced higher rates the same day President Joe Biden signed the Postal Service Reform Act into law. Biden says the legislation will put USPS on firmer financial footing. “This bill recognizes the Postal Service as a public service, and we’re ensuring that it can continue to serve all Americans for generations to come.”
The Navy is taking disciplinary action after a second fuel leak in Hawaii. Naval Supply Systems Command fired the chief of its Fleet Logistics Center for a loss of confidence this week. The Navy says Captain Albert Lee Hornyak lost his position due to oversight failures at the Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility. Hornyak was in charge of Red Hill when a large fuel spill seeped into Hawaii’s drinking water causing people in the local area to get sick. Red Hill recently reported another smaller fuel leak at the beginning of the month. The Defense Department has decided to close the facility.
The Small Business Innovation Research program is looking for ways to improve its research on science and technology innovation in the federal government. The SBIR, along with the Small Business Technology Transfer program, aim to support the missions of federal science organizations. They do that by encouraging small business participation in government research. At a House hearing marking the SBIR’s 40th anniversary, leaders reviewed ways to help the program more effectively meet its mission. SBIR is administered by the Small Business Administration.
The Defense Department is issuing a challenge to industry and academia to accelerate the development of an open 5G ecosystem. The challenge will help DoD develop and adopt open interfaces, interoperable components and multi-vendor solutions. DoD will award up to $3 million to participants to submit hardware or software solutions.
The Army wants to build software on its DevSecOps platform CReAtTE to run on any impact levels. The Army was testing it on the business side and in the tactical space for the past year. Gregg Judge, Deputy Director of Enterprise Cloud Management Agency, says soldiers and civilians are building applications through the continuous integration — continuous delivery pipeline within days with the service’s continuous ATO process. It’s a lot faster than the months and years it used to take to develop new applications, Judge says. They can partner with the Army futures command Software Factory, and with the Force Command Unit. (Federal News Network)
GSA launches a new blanket purchase agreement specifically for cloud technology. Ascend BPA is a multi-purpose, multiple award BPA for agencies to acquire and implement secure commercial cloud services offerings. Ascend will enable agencies to plan and execute cloud acquisitions, and it has in-built minimum thresholds for security, data ownership, and common terms and conditions. Sonny Hashmi, commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, said the idea is to reduce the burden for all agencies and lower administration costs for cloud service providers. (Federal News Network)
Agencies finalize initial plans to adopt a new cybersecurity paradigm. The White House is reviewing agency plans to adopt a zero trust security architecture by the end of fiscal year 2024. That’s a goal under the White House’s zero trust memo. But federal chief information security officer Chris DeRusha says every agency’s path will be different. “I don’t think that you can have a one size fits all approach, right? So as we’re getting the small and medium sized agency plans in as well, we’re going to look at them a little bit differently than we would a huge, 250,000 person agency.” (Federal News Network)