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The Senate voted 71 to 19 on a stopgap bill Thursday night to fund the government for an extra week. It will give Congress a little more time to work toward a full-year federal spending package — and avoid a government shutdown. The House passed a one-week continuing resolution Wednesday night, and the bill now heads to the President’s desk for signing. The one-week CR will expire on December 23.
The 2023 Defense authorization bill is headed to the president’s desk after an 83-11 Senate vote yesterday. As expected, it authorizes more than $850 billion in defense spending and a 4.6% military pay raise. But since the NDAA is one of the only “must-pass” bills left in Congress, it also included some last-minute additions that were needed to gain widespread agreement. Among them is a complete removal of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military servicemembers. (Senate passes defense bill rescinding COVID vaccine mandate – Federal News Network)
The Senate this week unanimously passed a bill that would ban TikTok on government devices. The departments of State, Homeland Security and Defense have already banned their personnel from using TikTok on their work devices. Lawmakers have concerns about TikTok’s security and its ownerships’ connections to the Chinese Communist Party.
Agency human capital leaders are hoping to scale up early successes in federal hiring reforms. Initiatives like skills-based hiring and the use of pooled job announcements have both drawn strong recruitment numbers this year. That is according to the Chief Human Capital Officers Council. In one example, a single job announcement looking for data analysts brought in 100 separate hires across agencies. At the Agriculture Department, the agency hired 39 HR specialists off of one job certificate. The CHCO council plans to build on some of these efforts in the coming year. (CHCO Council looks to scale, replicate successful pilots for federal hiring reform – Federal News Network)
The percentage of women serving in the military keeps going up. The newly released 2021 Demographic Profile of the Military Community showed a continuing trend upward for women serving in both active duty and reserve roles. In 2021, women made up over 17% of the active duty force and 21% of national guard and reserve forces. The number of women serving has gone up over one percentage point each year since 2017.
Women make up less than 10% of Special Operations Command members, even though they comprise about 17% of active duty military. A Government Accountability Office report recommends the Defense Department look into potential impediments to women joining special forces, and whether the environment in those commands upholds DoD diversity, equity and inclusion policies.
The twice-a-year IT modernization report card is out and agencies have plenty to celebrate. Agency progress in modernizing technology oversight and planning took several steps forward over the last six months. The 15th Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard shows the use of iterative development for software is strong. New data shows 90% of all major IT programs use this approach. Agencies saved more money by better managing and aligning IT investments and buying commodity technology products more efficiently. In all, seven agencies improved their grades, 17 stayed the same and for only the fourth time since 2015, no agency received a grade below a C. (Cyber, data center, EIS changes highlight FITARA 15 – Federal News Network)
The Office of Management and Budget is standardizing how statistical agencies can securely share data. OMB established the standard application process to simplify how federal, state and local government agencies, along with the legislative branch and others might apply to access confidential data assets for purposes of developing evidence-based decisions. Under the standard application process, OMB said the 16 statistical agencies remain the stewards of their data and are responsible for approving access.
Health care workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs are one step closer to getting full collective bargaining rights. The House passed the VA Employee Fairness Act, which now heads to the Senate. It would provide full collective bargaining rights to 100,000 VA doctors, physician assistants, nurses, dentists and chiropractors. With those expanded collective bargaining rights, these employees can negotiate with management on workplace practices that affect patient safety and care, working conditions and pay. House VA Committee Chairman Mark Takano said the bill is a necessary tool to help the agency ramp up hiring over the coming years. “Without these protections, VA will continue to struggle to recruit and retain the best and brightest medical professionals,” Takano said.
The Federal Protective Service is facing staffing shortages, as federal facilities continue to ramp up operations to pre-COVID levels. The Government Accountability Office found FPS had not filled more than one-fifth of its positions by the end of fiscal 2021. That includes about 200 law enforcement positions. GAO recommends the Department of Homeland Security and FPS strengthen their collaboration around hiring.
Federal research and development spending is on the rise thanks in part to COVID-19 spending. The Government Accountability Office found federal R&D spending grew by 30% over the last decade to nearly $180 billion in fiscal 2021. GAO found that COVID-19 stimulus funding drove the largest year-to-year change for government R&D spending in 50 years. The departments of Defense and Health and Human Services accounted for nearly 80% of all federal R&D spending in fiscal 2021.
The Office of Personnel Management is ramping up for its next round of agencies’ human capital reviews. The evaluations will look at workforce practices and activities that could yield long-term workforce improvements. For fiscal 2023, these reviews will largely center on goals and metrics under the President Management Agenda’s first priority of ‘strengthening and empowering the federal workforce.’ Agencies can recommend specific topics to OPM to cover during the reviews.