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The Marine Corps hit its retention goals for the first time in a decade. The Marine Corps said the first year of the Commandant’s Retention Program doubled the amount of top-tier service members it wanted to keep compared to last year. The initiative offers a streamlined retention process and gives some incentives for returning Marines. The service said it saw about half of the 2,500 Marines it selected for retention stay in the Corps. The Marine Corps is currently undergoing an overhaul to make it a lighter and more agile force with more skilled and experienced personnel. The service said increased retention helps with that goal.
The military’s formulas for calculating housing allowances have pushed those reimbursements up a bit, but not nearly enough to keep up with the actual increases in housing costs. A new analysis by the Associated Press looked at five of the country’s biggest military housing areas and found average allowances had risen by almost 19% since 2018. But rental prices in those same areas have gone up by an average of nearly 44%. (Federal News Network)
The Coast Guard is getting closer to having its own national museum. Officials broke ground at the future site in New London, Connecticut, on Friday. A $50 million appropriation in the 2022 budget helped jumpstart the project, an 80,000 square-foot facility expected to open in 2024. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Homeland Security is improving how it shares cyber threat information with agencies and the private sector. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency upgraded the Automated Information Sharing or AIS program in June with the latest standards for capturing and communicating cyber threat intelligence. This was one of several changes to the 7-year-old program highlighted in a new inspector general report. CISA said it also released a news submission guide. This will help public and private sector participants make the most of the cyber-threat indicators to help decisionmakers take action. Finally, CISA also added more contractors to help address short- and long-term strategic and operational challenges. All three of these were recommendations from the IG.
The Federal Acquisition Regulations Council has more than three dozen rules under development. Of the 39 changes to the FAR, 21 are in the proposed rule stage, including defining controlled unclassified information and protests of small business set-aside task orders. The FAR Council said in its semi-regulatory agenda, there are 15 rules in the final stage. These include one dating back to 2015 for how to use Acquisition 360 reviews and another dating back to 2018, that would address whistleblower protections for contractors.
The Defense Department, General Services Administration and NASA propose amending the FAR to implement President Biden’s executive order on federal construction projects. The EO in question mandates agencies use project labor agreements for large-scale federal construction projects that cost the government at least $35 million with exceptions. The rule change raises the cost threshold from $25 million and adds the mandatory language. The proposal said project labor agreements are one way to provide labor-management stability and to ensure compliance with laws and regulations.
The Department of Veterans Affairs made a change to improve both inclusion and customer experience. The VA Office of Information and Technology worked with the Veterans Health Administration’s LGBTQ+ Health Program to allow veterans more options on their individual profiles. Veterans can now designate their preferred names and gender identity on VA.gov. The VA Chief Information Officer said more updates are in the works.
Amtrak’s inspector general found the rail company’s electronic procurement system is not working as a centralized and automated repository for contracts, which means Amtrak contracting officers are spreading files across not just the intended Ariba on Demand system, but also in SharePoint and on personal drives. Auditors could not determine the total number of Amtrak contracts, suppliers, and change orders, thus posing legal and financial risks. The audit was done as Amtrak is set to receive funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law nine months ago.
Federal agencies are being called on to recruit more leaders for a federal charity campaign. The Office of Personnel Management is asking agencies to recruit leaders to run internal employee engagement campaigns. The campaigns are meant to raise the level of a department’s or agency’s support for charities. Last year’s “Combined Federal Campaign” raised $80 million for charity. Feds gave an additional $670,000 to support needs that arose from the war in Ukraine.
The GSA has named Chuck Hardy as its chief architect. In his new role, the 31-year GSA stalwart will advise the agency on all matters related to federal architecture and design for GSA’s capital construction program. Public Building Service Commissioner Nina Albert described Hardy’s new job as one of the most influential architectural roles in the government.
NASA and GSA have broken ground on a new Flight Dynamics Research Facility at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. With an anticipated opening in September 2024, the new facility consolidates and replaces two aging wind tunnels with one new one.
The largest federal employee union is out with its suggestions for the 2023 defense authorization bill. The American Federation of Government Employees is taking issue with a section of the bill that will extend the probationary period of some Defense Department workers to two years. AFGE said the provision is counterproductive to retention.