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The Social Security Administration said the $400 million that Congress gave the agency through December is not enough to fix many of its workforce problems. To make long-term improvements, SSA said it will need the White House’s $14.8 billion budget request. That’s a $1.4 billion increase over 2022. The funding would go in part toward hiring thousands of more employees and modernizing IT. The American Federation of Government Employees called for an additional $1.7 billion above the budget request, and recommended more SSA funding go toward staffing resources.
The Justice Department is committing to doing something it hasn’t done in more than a decade. For the first time since 2012, the Justice Department said it will release a new report on agency compliance with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. DoJ told the Senate Special Committee on Aging in a November 14 letter that it has been working with the General Services Administration and will submit the report in the coming weeks. The 1998 update to the ADA required annual reports from Justice on agency compliance with website and technology accessibility requirements. But DoJ has not met that mandate in a decade, leading to a bipartisan group of Senators pushing for more action to ensure people with disabilities can more easily obtain federal services.
The Justice Department has taken a step aimed at improving web accessibility. DoJ launched an updated version of ADA.gov. The official DoJ website will attempt to improve the agency’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. DoJ added overviews of common topics related to the ADA. The new webpages include plain-language information on topics like service animals, effective communication and telehealth. The department anticipates the new overview pages will answer about 80% of the public’s questions about the ADA. (Agencies need to do more to break down language barriers, DOJ says – Federal News Network)
The Federal Communications Commission has formally adopted new rules that come very close to banning two huge Chinese telecom companies from the U.S. market. The FCC had already flagged ZTE, Huawei and a handful of other Chinese companies as national security risks. Under the rules the commission approved on Friday, those companies can still sell devices that have already gotten FCC approval. But going forward, the commission will not approve any of their new products, essentially banning them from being used in the U.S. (US FCC bans sales, import of Chinese tech from Huawei, ZTE – Federal News Newtwork)
The military services and Defense agencies now have easier access to cutting-edge artificial intelligence and data analytics capabilities. The Defense Department launched its Tradewinds marketplace earlier this month. DoD hopes Tradewinds will be a single location to identify, describe and obtain digital and data analytics, as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, products and services through a rapid acquisition contract pathway. DoD said in early 2021 it wanted to create this marketplace to reduce the challenge of obtaining commercial technology advancements. Tradewinds is available to vendors, academia and federal acquisition professionals.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has received some initial recommendations on new cyber incident reporting rules. Multiple trade groups and other organizations are urging CISA to develop an easy mechanism for reporting cyber incidents to the government. CISA received more than 100 comments on the forthcoming cyber incident reporting regulations. Several groups urged CISA to develop a secure web portal with drop-down menus and other intuitive features. They said ease-of-use will be crucial to ensuring the success of the new incident reporting mandate. (Groups urge CISA to develop simple mechanism for cyber incident reporting – Federal News Network)
The Veterans Affairs Department has embarked on a year-end push to implement all the workforce provisions of the recently passed PACT Act. VA’s Undersecretary for Health Shereef Elnahal told the Senate VA Committee the agency expects to complete all PACT Act policy changes around hiring by the end of the calendar year. “Hiring faster and more competitively by consistently implementing these new authorities everywhere is my top priority,” Elnahal said. The Veterans Health Administration, since late October, has hired 3,600 health care enrollment specialists and trained them to understand which veterans qualify for benefits under the PACT Act. (VA embarks on year-end push to implement workforce elements on PACT Act – Federal News Network)
Federal employees still have time to make changes to their health care enrollments for 2023 over the next couple of weeks. Open season for the Federal Employees Health Benefits program has just about hit its halfway mark. This year’s open season is especially important, the Office of Personnel Management said. FEHB participants will pay an average of 8.7% more toward health premiums next year. It’s the highest premium increase for FEHB since 2011. Just 2.5% of feds participated in open season during 2022. This year’s open season will end on December 12.
The federal government saw an overall drop in improper payments in fiscal 2022, compared to 2021. The total improper payment rate fell from 7.2% in fiscal 2021 to 5.1% in fiscal 2022, even as some pandemic relief programs reported data for the first time. But the Biden administration said agencies need to do more to ensure payments go out correctly.
A leader at the National Archives is being recognized for her efforts to advance inclusivity in the technology sector. American University named Pamela Wright, NARA’s chief innovation officer, the winner of the 2022 Inclusive Tech Policy Changemaker Award. The recognition honors individuals who demonstrate a commitment to digital inclusion throughout their careers. Wright has been NARA’s chief innovation officer since 2012 and most recently was selected for a 2022 Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank Award.