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The military services’ science and technology labs are getting some new authorities to pay higher salaries in order to attract hard-to-find talent. Congress first authorized the new supplemental pay program as part of the 2022 Defense authorization bill, and DoD formally implemented it this month. It gives the directors of the military’s Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratories wide discretion to offer pay rates they think are necessary to stay competitive with other employers, but no more than $226,000 per year.
Several federal technology executives are on the move. The departments of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs and the General Services Administration are among the agencies with new technology executives. Christine Finnelle, the U.S. Marshals Service’s chief technology officer since 2019 is now the new director of enterprise architecture at DHS. Kim Pugh joins VA as its director of software-as-a-service. She comes over from the Veterans Health Administration. And Dan Lopez is now the director of the Login.gov program at GSA. He joined the federal government after three years as director of software engineering for the city of Philadelphia. (DHS, VA, GSA, OMB hire new federal technology executives – Federal News Network)
As of January 1, the Small Business Administration will officially certify veteran-owned small businesses that participate in the Veteran Small Business Certification Program. SBA finalized the rule that has been in the works since Congress mandated it in the fiscal 2021 defense authorization bill. SBA received 168 comments on the proposed rule from July. From those comments, SBA decided to continue allowing self-certification for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses at the subcontract level for at least the next five years. The agency estimates the new rule will impact more than 32,000 service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
Employees at the National Science Foundation may soon get to work from home more often. NSF’s new collective bargaining agreement with its union bumps up telework eligibility to eight days per pay period. Many feds at NSF could previously telework just one day a week. The newly negotiated terms of the agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees will last for the next four years. NSF and AFGE will assess the remote-work policy at the end of each quarter, to see how it’s impacting the agency’s workforce.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged lawmakers to work across party lines to avoid another stopgap spending bill or a government shutdown. That may come after the end of the current continuing resolution. That temporary spending bill will expire on December 16. Schumer said putting together a full-year omnibus is the best course of action for Congress to keep the government fully functional. Schumer is also pushing for bipartisan passage of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. The House passed its version of the NDAA back in July. (Biden signs continuing resolution into law averting government shutdown, FDA furloughs – Federal News Network)
The intelligence community is looking to fill gaps in its diversity data as it makes strides in hiring more women, minorities and persons with disabilities. But intel agencies still lag behind much of the rest of the federal government in hitting diversity, equity and accessibility metrics. Stephanie La Rue, the chief of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility for the intelligence community, is aiming to get better data to help drive DEI&A efforts forward. “We are not where we need to be, but we know where we need to go,” La Rue said. “And we’re working to get there.” (Spy agencies seek better raw data on diversity challenges – Federal News Network)
The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency is seeking new recruits. DCSA announced a virtual hiring event will be held early next month. The agency is looking for multiple personnel security specialists who will help DCSA with its mission overseeing the security clearance process. The positions require a top secret security clearance. Those interested should submit a resume to DCSA by December 4.
University researchers will get new equipment from a Defense Department grant program. DoD awarded 147 researchers from 77 different institutions funds through the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program. The $59 million in grants for fiscal 2023 will support research in such fields as the design of novel materials, quantum computing, microelectronics, geophysics and human performance. The program is an annual merit-based competition run by research offices for the Army, Air Force and Navy. This year, 522 proposals were submitted for consideration.
They still don’t get to wear ponytails in uniform, but women Marines finally get a more relaxed standard for hairstyles. Previous standards dictated that women’s hair had to be above the collar, which meant most women had to keep their hair in a tight bun. Now, the Marines will allow several different hairstyles including twists, half-braids and half ponytails, with some allowance for how far hair can go below the collar. The Marine Corps trails the Army and Navy in relaxing women’s hair standards. The regulations were considered particularly burdensome for black women with natural hair.
The State Department has recognized Foreign Service families for their volunteer work overseas. The department gave out this year’s Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad to Foreign Service family members for volunteer work that supported refugees amid the war in Ukraine, the resettlement of Afghan refugees and ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns in China. One award recipient was recognized for developing a pressure cooker in Madagascar that reduces the country’s dependence on charcoal for cooking. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said these projects help advance diplomacy overseas. “Their work complements the official diplomacy being led by our Foreign Service officers,” Blinken said.
The Postal Service has gotten the OK to raise the price of stamps to 63 cents in January. The Postal Regulatory Commission is approving USPS’s request to raise the price of its market-dominant products, including first-class mail, periodicals and marketing mail. The new higher prices will go into effect on January 22. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said more rate hikes are needed for USPS to become self-sustaining in the long term. The price of a first-class stamp was 50 cents before January 2019.