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2022 was a banner year for the General Services Administration’s IT contracts. Agencies spent nearly $34 billion through GSA’s IT contracts, including the schedules program, governmentwide acquisition contracts like Alliant 2 and the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions program. This was 16% more than what agencies spent in 2021. Small businesses on these contracts also made out well, seeing a 9% increase in contracts for a total of almost $9 billion. GSA also said agencies spent more than $24 billion on services in 2022, which was almost a 10% increase over the previous year. Of the $24 billion, agencies spent almost $13 billion on IT contracts outside the schedule program.
A group of 57 members of Congress is calling on the Defense Department to restore Basic Allowance for Housing to its full value for service members. DoD reduced the allowance to 95% of its previous value in 2015. With current cost-of-living increases, the congressional group, including Reps. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) and Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.), wrote a letter urging Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to restore the extra 5% allowance. The reduction was meant to save the government money, but the Members of Congress who signed the letter said it was causing too much financial stress for members of the military.
Space Force activated its first overseas combatant command. U.S. Space Forces, Indo-Pacific is now assigned to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, will be headquartered at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii and will support space defense for the region spanning from the Indian Ocean across South and East Asia to the West coast of the United States. The Space Force integration into the Indo-Pacific Command is meant to serve as a blueprint for integrating the service into other commands. By the end of December, that should include field commands in U.S. Central Command and U.S. Forces Korea.
The Central Intelligence Agency has hired a former private-sector executive to lead employee wellbeing efforts. Jennifer Posa is the CIA’s first-ever Chief Wellbeing Officer. She will lead efforts to increase mental health resources and other support for CIA officers. Posa was most recently the Global Head of Employee Mental Wellbeing and Workplace Effectiveness for Johnson & Johnson. The CIA is increasingly prioritizing employee wellbeing. The spy agency is also planning to increase access to childcare subsidies and identify additional flexible work options for officers. (CIA hires first ever chief wellbeing officer – Federal News Network)
Agencies still need to make progress to close skills gaps, and the Office of Personnel Management wants to help. OPM said resources like the agency talent portal for hiring, or student loan repayment options for retention, may help agencies try to narrow those skills gaps. A report from OPM found that HR, cybersecurity and acquisition all remain high-risk and governmentwide positions. “We provide feedback, we see where gaps are, and we work closely with them to ensure that they have that infrastructure in there to be able to address those skills gaps. We’re moving in the right direction, but there are always going to be opportunities to close skills gaps,” said OPM’s Jason Barke. (Agencies have resources available to help close skills gaps, OPM says – Federal News Network)
The Veterans Affairs Department is moving away from paper checks to issue benefits and cutting out fraud in the process. VA said its Veterans Benefits Banking Program has shifted more than 200,000 veterans and their beneficiaries to direct deposit. VA said paper checks are 16 times more likely to be lost, stolen or manipulated by fraudsters. The agency said that by shifting more payments to direct deposit in 2019, fraud rates have dropped by 93%.
Add another project to a growing list of agencies that are trying to take on the “valley of death” for emerging and innovative companies. This time the U.S. Cyber Command and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched a pilot program known as Constellation that aims to improve the flow of new cyber capabilities from high-risk, high-reward cyber science and technology research. These two DoD agencies are creating a user-directed, incremental and iterative pipeline to accelerate new capabilities into Cyber Command’s software ecosystem.
The Office of Personnel Management has finalized its removal of several federal workforce policies from the Trump administration. Those policies from 2020 focused on making it easier to discipline and fire feds. The new changes now add more options for managers to address employee performance issues. The final rule from OPM stems from President Biden’s executive order on protecting the federal workforce. After two years of preparing for implementation of the workforce policy changes, OPM said the new regulations will go into effect on December 12.
The Defense Department has outlined how it will hire 2,000 personnel for its suicide prevention workforce. The Pentagon is looking to hire hundreds of clinicians and mental health professionals in the coming months, as part of the initial cohort of its worldwide suicide prevention workforce. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said hiring, onboarding and training the suicide prevention workforce is “at the top of the list” of priorities for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. This DoD workforce will reach 2,000 personnel in the coming years and is expected to outpace any similar effort led by universities or state governments. “This prevention workforce will be a first of its kind, and we’re going to do it right here in the United States military, because that’s what we owe our people and their families,” Hicks said. (DoD outlines how it will hire 2,000 personnel for suicide prevention workforce – Federal News Network)
The Transportation Security Administration is asking for feedback on its fast-evolving cyber requirements. TSA released an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on cyber risk management this week. The agency wants feedback on the best way to protect critical surface transportation systems, like gas pipelines and railways, from cyber threats. TSA has already issued cyber directives to some pipeline and rail operators. The agency is now considering whether to issue more formal regulations through a rulemaking process.