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New legislation would make it easier for security clearance applicants to overcome a history of using marijuana. A provision in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2023 intel authorization bill would prohibit agencies from denying a clearance solely based on the applicant’s previous pot use. The provision was championed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). He’s also pushing to make it so ongoing marijuana use is not the basis for denying or losing a clearance. Today, cleared individuals can still expect to forfeit their clearance due to ongoing pot use, even if it’s legal in the state in which they reside.
Kiran Ahuja reaches one year as director for the Office of Personnel Management. Ahuja is the first confirmed OPM director to reach one year in office since 2015. After implementing changes like adding time off to vote and updating telework policies, Ahuja said she’s pushing for more reforms to federal recruitment, “We’re going to stand up a chief diversity officer council, which is something that will be coming this summer, paid internship guidance that will be coming out later this summer. We want to ensure that federal jobs and opportunities are accessible to all, as well as doing some reforms to the Pathways Program.” (Federal News Network)
Agencies have some new guidance for securely using cloud services. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency updated its Cloud Security Technical Reference Architecture this week. The agency received more than 300 comments on the original TRA released last September. The new document reflects requests to bring the guidance in line with the federal zero trust strategy, clarify its connections to the FedRAMP program, and create more consistency with Identity and Access Management capabilities.
Health and Human Services welcomes its inaugural class of digital fellows. The fellows are part of an early career program to get technology career workers into government. At HHS, the fellows will use data, analytics and innovation to help with pubic health outreach. The program is designed to recruit new tech employees into federal government. Fellows come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from recent college grads, to software engineers and product managers. The Office of Management and Budget last week announced the 41 fellows who will spend the next two years working at 13 different agencies to solve technology challenges.
Frontline employees at the Federal Emergency Management Agency may see more resources from federal leadership. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell requests funding in the fiscal 2023 budget to expand mental health programs for agency workers. That’s as FEMA faces staffing shortages and a now year-round pace of disaster response in the U.S. Criswell said the agency is analyzing its future staffing model to determine how to increase services, without placing more strain on employees. FEMA’s budget request also includes $6.4 million for the incident management workforce.
A bill to make federal buildings more resilient against natural disasters makes it through the Senate. The Disaster Resiliency Planning Act would require the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidance to agencies on how to make natural disaster resilience part of their asset management decision-making. OMB would also work with the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help agencies identify potential gaps in their disaster resilience prevention efforts. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced the bill.
The upside to Congress’ decentralized nature is that innovation can come from anywhere. The downside is that coordinating those innovations is hard. Current and former staffers say technology can and has solved many common problems for members of Congress, but they want to see members tap into more commercial-friendly platforms and give centralized authority to bodies like the Bulk Data Task Force, or the House Digital Service. The House Modernization Committee said they agree Congress needs better collaboration on tech solutions but it may take dedicated staff from each member office. (Federal News Network)
Federal contractors and subcontractors have less than a week to certify their compliance with their affirmative action requirements. The Labor Department’s Office of Contractor Compliance set a June 30 deadline for vendors to submit their plans to the OFCCP Contractor Portal. Labor found most contractors and subcontractors were not meeting federal affirmative action requirements forcing them to create this new rule. It mandates companies, on an annual basis, to develop and maintain annual affirmative action plans and upload them to the portal. Contractors and subcontractors who fail to register or certify their compliance will face an audit from Labor.
The IRS is looking to diversify its contractor base. A new request for information published on SAM.gov says the agency is doing market research. It wants to determine if there is a sufficient population of contractors capable of providing goods and services the IRS needs. The RFI specifically asks for responses from businesses that qualify for socio-economic set-asides. IRS is looking for responses by July 12.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is now better at negotiating prices of pharmaceuticals. The VA’s National Acquisition Center heeded the advice of its inspector general and renegotiated prices with 10 pharmaceutical suppliers and achieved almost $43 million in immediate savings. The acquisition center went back to the contractors after the IG found all 10 did not have valid reasons for not offering the agency most-favored-customer pricing. The IG also found the acquisition center didn’t reliably track all the items contractors offered through the Price Reduction Clause, causing the higher prices. VA expects to save more than $328 million over the life of the contracts.
The Department of Veterans Affairs encourages veterans to self-check for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on PTSD Screening Day, June 27. The agency shared a 50-second self-evaluation to help determine if the subject may have symptoms of PTSD by answering six questions. Paula Schnurr, the executive director of the National Center for PTSD said that the message they want to send is one of hope and she said that PTSD is treatable and a normal response to trauma.
The concept of a government scorecard for customer experience is coming into focus. Former federal officials suggest a customer experience category could be added to the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act scorecard, or could exist as a standalone scorecard. Matt Lira, former special assistant to the president for Innovation Policy and Initiatives tell the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee a FITRA-like scorecard for CX would get results. “It’s tangible, it’s binary, it’s quantitative. And I will say firsthand, being on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, it was an incredibly useful tool, the FITARA scorecard, in driving agency deliverables,” Lira said. (Federal News Network)
Two observers of federal management have a list of nine tenets for more agile government. The National Academy of Public Administration and the Project Management Institute’s latest report, “Agile Regulation: Gateway to the Future,” outlines an agile regulatory framework with tenets like collaborating early and often on regulatory development, using small inclusive teams to manage the regulatory development process, and automation tools. NAPA President Terry Gerton saidthat after the pandemic, the public sector must begin to operate differently and make public satisfaction the top priority.