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Federal employees expect the work-life balance that telework brings and will leave agencies that don’t provide it. Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja says feds are leaving agencies that are enforcing strict office reentry policies — if not leaving government altogether. “What we are seeing is agency-hopping, based on where employees see the level of flexibility. We don’t want agencies having to compete with each other,” Ahuja said. Additionally, Ahuja said telework is an essential tool to hire workers outside major metropolitan areas and recruit the next generation of federal employees.
The union representing the Justice Department’s immigration judges is asking for a restoration of its collective bargaining rights. The Federal Labor Relations Authority previously ruled that the administrative law judges were not entitled to unionize. But the board’s membership changed in May, and the National Association of Immigration Judges is now hoping for a return to the status quo. (Federal News Network)
A commission to oversee the closure of some Veterans Affairs Department health care facilities lost funding in the House. The House-passed version of the fiscal 2023 spending package defunds the VA’s Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission. The commission, under the 2018 MISSION Act, is supposed to review the VA’s recommendations to right-size its real-estate portfolio of medical facilities across the country. The House military construction and VA appropriations spending bill originally included $5 million in new funding for the AIR Commission, but lawmakers approved an amendment that reauthorizes funding to support VA’s homeless veteran program. (Federal News Network)
The House cleared a federal funding package for fiscal 2023. A six-bill appropriations “minibus” passed the House with about $560 billion in government funding. The spending package increases funds for the IRS, in part to improve its customer service. It also puts federal dollars toward medical research and care for veterans. The minibus does not mention the federal pay raise, meaning the House will align with President Biden’s 4.6% proposal. Senate appropriators are expected to release their draft spending bills by the end of the month. (Federal News Network)
The House Oversight and Reform Committee passed a bill to try to prevent waste, fraud and improper spending of federal dollars. The STOP Fraud Act, introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), would establish a dedicated anti-fraud federal office. The legislation would also create an online, public dashboard to track agencies’ cost savings and efforts to combat fraud. Agencies would be able to use some of their recovered fraudulent funds to reinvest in technologies for reducing improper payments. The bill moves to the full House for consideration.
The Veterans Health Administration landed its first permanent leader in more than six years. The Senate confirmed former New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal in a 66-23 vote. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) had blocked plans to confirm Elnahal through a unanimous consent vote on the Senate floor in May. Instead, Scott said he wanted a recorded vote on the nominee. VHA has not had a permanent leader since January 2016, when David Shulkin left the post to become the Veterans Affairs secretary in the Trump administration.
The Coast Guard is modifying medical requirements for future members, in an effort to improve retention and lower enlistment requirements. Under the new guidance, the Coast Guard will be more attuned to whether a person can perform duties despite medication needs or medical diagnosis. Higher medical standards will still be required for certain communities within the Coast Guard, based on job demands. The new policy comes amid recruiting difficulties across the military, caused by the pandemic.
The departments of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Defense are teaming up on a new outdoor recreation initiative. On Thursday, President Biden announced the new Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation or FICOR, which will encourage more Americans to spend time in nature by expanding outdoor recreation opportunities and provide more affordable experiences on public land and water. FICOR will also help to coordinate policies to invest in recreation infrastructure and bolster education and career opportunities in conservation. The council is part of Biden’s “America the Beautiful” initiative.
It appears federal agencies are not losing cybersecurity specialists to just the private sector. The Justice Department’s internal cyber review found DOJ needs to better compete with other agencies for cyber talent. Some agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security, have introduced special cyber-hiring programs, offering higher salaries compared to the rest of the federal government. Now, Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja said OPM wants to make it easy for all federal agencies to hire cyber specialists. “We also want to work with Congress to develop a governmentwide cyber workforce plan that puts agencies on equal footing when competing for cyber talent,” Ahuja said. (Federal News Network)
Time is running out to apply for the next round of TMF or Technology Modernization Fund awards. GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said applications are due August 1, adding that there’s about $400 million left out of the $1 billion TMF received from the American Rescue Plan. Carnahan expects the rest of that funding to be committed by the end of this fiscal year. About $100 million is specifically slated for improvements to user experience.