Zombie programs lurch toward half a trillion dollars

In today's Federal Newscast: The Biden team has made a few more tweaks to its COVID-19 guidance for feds. Zombie programs that just won't die lurch glassy-eyed ...

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  • President Joe Biden laid out his plan to give federal employees a pay raise in 2023. Biden said he plans to give civilian federal employees an average 4.6% pay raise next year, effective January 1. The president is specifically recommending a 4.1% across-the-board pay raise for federal employees in 2023, with an additional 0.5% average locality-pay adjustment. Some federal employees will see a higher or lower pay raise depending on what part of the country they live in. It’s the largest federal pay raise in 20 years, but it falls short of the 5.1% pay raise proposed by some congressional Democrats. (Federal News Network)
  • The Biden administration has made a few more tweaks to its COVID-19 guidance for the federal workforce. Among other changes, there is no longer a governmentwide distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees when it comes to decisions about who is allowed to travel on official business. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force also added guidance on what specific types of masks need to be worn in some workplace settings, like those in areas with high COVID transmission rates.
  • The Coast Guard kicked seven cadets out of its academy this week for refusing to comply with the military’s COVID vaccination policy. Having asked for religious exemptions, several of those cadets are challenging the denial in a federal lawsuit. (Federal News Network)
  • The number of “zombie” programs continues to rise. Agencies are spending $26 billion more in fiscal 2022 on programs that Congress has not reauthorized. This brings the total of programs that will not die to more than 1,100, worth more than $460 billion. Another 111 programs are set to expire at the end of 2022, if Congress does not act. The Congressional Budget Office detailed these programs in a new report, prompting some lawmakers to call on fellow members to do more to kill off these unauthorized programs. House Budget Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.),  called for an end to “legislative laziness” and said Congress must reclaim the power of the purse.
  • How’s your agency reducing the “time tax” on citizens? That’s a question a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers is asking the Government Accountability Office to help answer. In a letter to GAO, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and nine other House members want auditors to review agency efforts to improve citizen-facing agency operations. The lawmakers are concerned about the time burden on citizens to apply for or take advantage of services. They outline seven questions for GAO to consider, including the work by the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration on the customer experience executive order and what steps agencies are taking to reduce the paperwork burden.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is missing an incentive structure for employees who go above and beyond, and Director Rochelle Walensky wants to change that. She said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers were deployed, taking on additional tasks that were related to responding to the spread of the virus. At an event held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Walensky said that her office needs to implement a way to reward those who step up in times of crisis.
  • Expect to see some changes to a key process behind the Pentagon’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program. The Cyber Accreditation Body will revise the much-criticized CMMC Assessment Process (CAP) document. Industry groups like the Coalition for Government Procurement argue the draft CAP document is too complex and prescriptive. Cyber Accreditation Body Chief Executive Matthew Travis said the CAP is a work in progress. “We’re going to continue to work this and adjudicate comments and share with you, each month give you an update on CAP revisions and changes,” Travis said. The CAP won’t’ be finalized until the Pentagon implements formal rules for the CMMC requirements at some point next year. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies are being reminded to close out old Freedom of Information Act requests. As the fiscal year comes to a close, agencies have started to send “still interested” letters to requesters. But the Office of Government Information Services said agencies should limit the use of such inquiries, and give requesters at least 30 days to respond. Any requester who believes an agency may be misusing these close-out letters should contact the agency’s FOIA public liaison or OGIS itself for assistance.
  • The Air Force is setting new goals to make its officer applicant pool more diverse. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the Air Force went through a diversity-and-inclusion review and found that minorities and women were underrepresented in the officer corps. Now, the service is trying to change that by setting aspirational goals for the percentages of certain races, ethnicities and genders in its recruitment pools. The officer corps is currently 79% male and 77% white. The new applicant goals hope to change that to make the service more representative of the nation and the Air Force as a whole. The goals aim for 36% of applicants to be women. The Air Force wants 13% of applicants to be Black and 15% to be Hispanic or Latino. By the end of September, the service will come up with a plan to reach its goals. (Federal News Network)
  • The Navy’s looking for new sailors to join its esports team to compete in national tournaments in video games like Super Smash Brothers and Call of Duty. The Navy said esports helps with recruiting. Sailors who are selected are given a three-year assignment to the team’s facility in Memphis.
  • The Defense Department wants to make military aviation a little safer, or at least adopt some civilian aviation safety practices. The newly-formed Joint Safety Council will focus on operational safety challenges and adding to existing safety programs. In addition to aviation, the council hopes to improve safety protocols for tactical, ground and afloat vehicles. The council will make recommendations to reform regulations and policy that affect operational safety, with a goal of bridging the gap between commercial aviation practices and military aviation realities.
  • The military continues to see increases in reports of sexual assault as the Defense Department said there was a 13% uptick in 2021. The Army and Navy saw the most significant increases. Additionally, in a confidential survey, 36,000 service members reported unwanted sexual contact. Sexual assaults have continued to grow in the military, even through the pandemic. With the help of an independent committee, DoD is implementing a series of reforms.
  • The Biden administration is instructing agencies on how to build up the federal workforce to meet its green government goals. The White House expects its Council on Environmental Quality to decide on metrics to track the development of a climate and sustainability-focused workforce no later than fiscal 2023. Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management is working on a report analyzing the federal workforce’s role in climate adaptation and sustainability. OPM’s forthcoming report will specifically look at the state of agency engagement, employee training and leadership capabilities needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all government operations.

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