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Tonight, ceremonies for the highest awards in federal service take place. James Robinson, the recently retired program manager for NASA’s James Webb Telescope, will be named Federal Employee of the Year at this evening’s Service To America Medals gala. His work righted a troubled program, leading to the telescope’s successful launch last December. Dr. Clifford Lane of the National Institutes of Health, will receive the Paul Volker Career Achievement Award for his research in HIV/AIDS. Career feds will also receive prizes in seven other Sammies categories. Ceremonies take place at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The Air Force is reversing a plan that would have cut some servicemembers’ pay at the beginning of the new fiscal year. The service had planned to eliminate special duty assignment pay for several hundred servicemembers working in difficult jobs. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said he’s reversed that decision. He said the blowback the service faced highlights the fact that the Defense Department’s processes for pay adjustments are not always in sync with inflation and other real-world economic conditions. He said the Air Force may also make changes to other programs like housing reimbursements and cost-of-living adjustments to reflect what he calls a “learning experience.”
The issue of climate change is heightening financial uncertainty for federal agencies. The government has appropriated $315 billion for disaster assistance and relief since fiscal 2015. And that spending is only projected to increase as extreme weather events become more frequent. In response, the Government Accountability Office said agencies should make more long-term, proactive investments to try to reduce future spending. That can mean changes like incorporating climate resiliency into federal facility planning, or creating a national climate information system.
Census.gov is getting a facelift. The Census Bureau has overhauled its main website, with the goal of becoming more user-friendly. The landing page now has simplified navigation tools, to try to more easily share the Bureau’s data. The Bureau added that the website refresh was part of an effort to comply with the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act. Although the new design has already launched, the Bureau said it will continue incorporating testing and feedback from users and stakeholders.
A bill to reauthorize some funding for the Food and Drug Administration has the potential to impact employment for thousands of workers. The Prescription Drug User Fee Act, which must be reauthorized every five years, includes direct funding for 3,500 FDA employees. If the bill doesn’t pass, the agency would have to begin sending potential furlough notifications by the end of the month. An FDA spokesperson said the agency expects the jobs supported through user fees will be funded. Although the House passed the bill in June, the legislation has not yet cleared the Senate. (Federal News Network)
New metrics from the Office of Management and Budget are on the way in early 2023. The Federal Chief Information Officer’s office is close to finalizing new ways to measure the impact of cybersecurity, customer experience and websites. Federal CIO Clare Martorana told House lawmakers the cyber metrics will help OMB improve how it assess risks agencies are facing. “We will constantly refine the data, as we both deal with different threats, as well as make … informed decisions and also make progress,” Martorana said. She added that the other metrics will measure agencies’ digital efforts and OMB and the General Services Administration will release new website metrics in the coming months.
Eight agencies are advancing clean manufacturing as part of the Biden administration’s Federal Buy Clean initiative. The latest is the General Services Administration’s request for information to learn more about the availability of domestically manufactured solar photovoltaic panels and components. Through the RFI, GSA seeks to better understand how it can encourage domestic manufacturing of PV panels through federal procurement. Another initiative through the Buy Green Task Force will help agencies buy construction materials that have fewer greenhouse gas emissions associated with their manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal.
The Department of Homeland Security is refitting some battery-powered electric vehicles for use in federal law enforcement. The agency said the electric vehicle repurposing is the first of its kind, and is a proactive effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To qualify for law enforcement use, the vehicles must be able to handle high speeds, on- and off-road maneuverability, durability tests and more. DHS uses about 60% of its 50,000-vehicle fleet for law enforcement purposes.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services needs a more accurate staffing model for its antifraud workforce. The Government Accountability Office found that the current model does not accurately reflect operating conditions. Inconsistent data entry also means workloads are not represented authentically. GAO recommended USCIS pinpoint additional factors that skew workload predictions, and issue guidance on data entry procedures to achieve better staffing model estimates.
The IRS watchdog has found that the agency took appropriate steps to respond to COVID-19, but identified areas that need improvement for future public health crises. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said that IRS needs more flexibility to issue its own internal guidance, instead of waiting for OMB, the Office of Personnel Management and Treasury.