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The omnibus spending bill that’ll fund federal agencies for the rest of this fiscal year is now law. President Joe Biden signed the $1.7 trillion appropriations package yesterday. Agencies had been operating under a continuing resolution that was set to expire today. The omnibus wraps 12 appropriations bills into a single measure. It includes a 6% increase in domestic spending and a 10% increase in Defense spending, compared to 2022 levels. (Federal News Network)
Congress is looking for more consistency in DoD’s approach to telework in the post-pandemic era. A provision in the newly-passed 2023 Defense authorization bill orders the Pentagon to come up with a single set of flexible workplace guidance by April. Lawmakers weren’t specific as to what aspects of remote work guidance needs to address, but they want it to outline the basic conditions that allow employees to work from telecommuting centers or under telework agreements.
Emphasizing the availability of telework for federal jobs may lead to better recruitment and retention. That’s according to the Office of Personnel Management’s latest report to Congress on agencies’ telework status. Many agencies say promoting telework can make it easier to attract high-quality job candidates. During fiscal 2021, about 47% of the federal workforce was teleworking at least some of the time. Though the report only covers 2021, OPM is now collecting its next round of telework data for an upcoming report on fiscal 2022. (Federal News Network)
The Justice Department wants to make it easier for agencies to fulfill federal records requests. DOJ plans to improve efficiency under the Freedom of Information Act. Those plans include developing an interactive tool on FOIA.gov to streamline requests from the public. DOJ says it’ll also update the 2017 FOIA self-assessment toolkit to better reflect recent updates. These plans come after the department earlier this year issued new FOIA guidelines. DOJ says it hopes the upcoming changes will make it easier for agencies to more quickly and consistently reply to the public’s information requests.
Small businesses will get more opportunities to pitch their ideas with the introduction of AFWERX 3.0. The program, based at the Air Force Research Laboratory, expands the Air Force’s innovation capabilities and works with small businesses to get new ideas through a pipeline from feasibility study to production. As part of their expansion, AFWERX grew its contracting team by 80% and its civilian workforce by 50%. The contracting focus remains on working with small business programs to get innovative ideas into production. AFWERX operates on a budget of about one billion dollars a year. (Federal News Network)
As part of its effort to increase recruiting, the Defense Department will expand its Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, and DoD is loosening the qualifications for program instructors. The instructors no longer have to be retired or active duty officers or warrant officers. Now anyone who served as an officer or warrant officer for at least eight years, and who served no more than five years ago, is eligible to teach the program. JROTC is a military education program taught in high school. DoD pays half the salaries for instructors.
More than 1,100 small cities and towns across the country lost their status as urban areas after the U.S. Census Bureau released its updated list based on revised criteria. The population threshold for a town or city to be considered urban was raised from 2,500 to 5,000. Urban and rural areas often qualify for different types of federal funding, and the Census definition often serves as the determining factor. (Federal News Network)