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With at least 50,000 IRS employees expected to retire over the next five years, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has instructed the tax agency to develop a modernization plan. In a memo this week to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, Yellen writes that she wants the IRS, over the next six months, to develop a plan that will outline the importance of modernizing their computer systems, as well as ensuring they maintain appropriate staffing levels. The mandate comes as the tax collection agency is set to receive nearly $80 billion over the next 10 years. According to Yellen’s memo, all of these updates are meant to help identify tax evasion schemes perpetrated by top earners. (Federal News Network)
As Federal News Network first reported earlier this week, the Biden Administration is relaxing its COVID-19 screening procedures for federal facilities. The updated guidance is now posted on the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s website, which you can find at federalnewsnetwork.com. The biggest change is that agencies are being told, at least for now, to stop asking employees, visitors and contractors about their vaccination status. The administration said it made the changes in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s planning a “reset,” including some significant organizational changes, in response to some of its missteps during the COVID-19 response. Department of Health and Human Services leadership would need to approve the plan. But it ranges from a restructuring of CDC’s communications office, to a new executive council, to a new intergovernmental affairs office to improve partnerships with other agencies. (Federal News Network)
The Biden administration is looking at new ways to bring artificial intelligence experts into government. Lynne Parker, the Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer and director of the White House’s National AI Initiative Office, said in an exit interview that the Office of Personnel Management is taking steps to establish an occupational series for AI work in government. OPM is also identifying rotational programs to bring AI expertise onboard at agencies. Parker said hiring a diverse group of AI experts remains a priority for the Biden administration. “It’s essential that we enable the full and diverse talent of a nation to contribute to this AI innovation ecosystem,” Parker said.
The Armed Forces have been making substantial changes to their tattoo policies in recent years, but keeping all of it straight can be confusing. The military is in need of recruits and in the past tattoos in certain areas prohibited someone from serving. That’s all been changing, but the Government Accountability Office said the criteria for waivers for tattoos that are still off limits aren’t clear. GAO said the military needs clearer guidance on requirements for waivers on the size and location of tattoos. Most services at this point have permitted tattoos almost everywhere except for the face, neck and hands. GAO is recommending that all of the military services clearly document waiver guidance for both service members and recruits.
A soldier with an idea to help build bridges and docks more efficiently is the winner of this year’s Army Dragon’s Lair innovation challenge, where soldiers face-off in a Shark Tank-style competition. Sgt. Roger Litton won with the idea of a hydraulic excavator that will increase building efficiency by 25%.
The Office of Management and Budget is about to lose a key member of its federal workforce leadership. OMB’s associate director of performance and personnel management, Pam Coleman, will step down from her role tomorrow. She has served in the key personnel leadership position since February 2021. Coleman’s work centered on implementing the President’s Management Agenda, analyzing federal employee pulse surveys and finding ways to improve federal services. A source confirmed to Federal News Network that Coleman plans to take time off, while looking for opportunities to contribute to a voting rights organization. (Federal News Network)
GSA has been forced to raise the ceiling on a popular governmentwide contract. The General Services Administration is giving some breathing room to the Alliant 2 governmentwide acquisition contract. It has been such a popular vehicle that GSA is increasing the amount of money by $25 billion that agencies can obligate under the 10-year contract. Alliant 2 now has a $75 billion ceiling. GSA said Alliant 2 has surpassed all expectations of revenue and production forecasts. The annual burn rate would surpass the previous $50 billion ceiling by early fiscal 2023. GSA also said it’s currently working on Alliant 3 and expects to release a draft solicitation in early 2023.
The State Department launches a new program that honors one of its former greats. The Colin Powell Leadership Program will provide paid fellowships to newly-minted college grads and paid internships to undergrads. Interns will work in the social science trainee and administrative office support series. Fellows in the foreign affairs and management analysis series. State officials said they expect to fill the openings by late September via USAJobs.com. Both internships and fellowships are eligible for career State positions. The program is named for the late general who served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.
GSA announced a small increase to per diem rates for 2023. Per diem lodging rates will account for that rise, increasing from $96 per night to $98. Meals and incidental expenses will not change from their current range of $59-$79 per day. GSA also created seasonal rate periods to account for increased prices due to travel volume. (Federal News Network)
The Federally Employed Women advocacy group or (FEW) elected Pamela Richards as its national president, for a term through 2024. Richards’ priorities include adding more training, networking and professional development opportunities for women in the federal workforce.
The Census Bureau is seeking public input on how to conduct the next decennial count in 2030. The bureau is specifically looking for feedback on how new data sources and technology could improve the 2030 Census and ensure the bureau accurately counts underserved populations. The bureau is in the beginning stages of planning for the 2030 Census and expects to have a big-picture plan for decennial operations by 2024.
A couple of congressmen praised the Social Security Administration for its decision to start accepting in-person visits and reopen field offices in April, but they are concerned about elderly members of the public waiting in line in intense summer heat. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) of the Ways and Means Committee wrote a letter to SSA, outlining their concerns, for which they expect to get an answer no later than Aug. 30.
A former nurse at the Department of Veteran Affairs has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud multiple state agencies of pandemic-related benefits intended for unemployed workers. Heather Huffman of Pleasant Hill, California, used her work computer to defraud three states of unemployment insurance. Along with three co-conspirators, the Justice Department said she submitted false and misleading applications in the names of identity theft victims and inmates of various correctional facilities for COVID-19 benefits. Huffman was working at Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, at the time. The DOJ said Huffman and her co-conspirators obtained over $2 million in unemployment insurance benefits from the Virginia, Washington state and California employment security departments. She’s the fourth and final member of the conspiracy to plead guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 29.