Agencies may have a clearer picture on how to determine employees’ eligibility to join a union. The Office of Personnel Management has released guidance to help agencies review and — if needed — correct feds’ eligibility to join a bargaining unit. Agencies can use bargaining unit status codes to make these adjustments. The OPM guidance is a response to recommendations from the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. The task force...
- Agencies may have a clearer picture on how to determine employees’ eligibility to join a union. The Office of Personnel Management has released guidance to help agencies review and — if needed — correct feds’ eligibility to join a bargaining unit. Agencies can use bargaining unit status codes to make these adjustments. The OPM guidance is a response to recommendations from the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. The task force recommendations aim to encourage worker organizing and collective bargaining in the federal workforce.
- House and Senate Democrats reintroduced a bill to give feds a large pay increase in 2024. The latest version of the FAIR Act would give most civilian employees an 8.7% pay raise next year. The raise would be broken down into a 4.7% base pay raise and a 4% average locality pay boost. If enacted, it would be a sizeable jump from the 4.6% raise for 2023. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) has introduced the FAIR Act every year for nearly a decade. But Congress has never enacted any version of the bill.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs is more than halfway to meeting its hiring goal for health care workers this fiscal year. The VA’s Veterans Health Administration is looking to hire 52,000 employees before the end of fiscal 2023. VA Undersecretary for Health Shereef Elnahal says VHA meeting its hiring goal would result in a 3% increase in the number of health care employees onboard at the agency. Elnahal says so far, VHA has seen a 1.5% increase in the number of employees brought on board. “That’s in less than half of the year, and so I’m optimistic that we’ll hopefully meet that goal.”
- The National Security Agency is embarking one of its largest hiring sprees of the last three decades. The NSA says it has over 3,000 job openings. It’s a notable amount of open positions for a spy agency that typically has low turnover. The openings cut across fields including computer science, cybersecurity, math, data science, engineering and intelligence analysis. The agency also says opportunities are available for entry-, mid-, and senior-level professionals.
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology is setting new standards for responsible use of artificial intelligence. NIST’s new AI Risk Management Framework (RMF) gives public and private-sector organizations several criteria on how to maximize the reliability and trustworthiness of AI algorithms they develop or deploy. Those include whether the AI is reliable, transparent and explainable, and avoid harmful bias. The framework is non-binding and not specific to any particular industry, Congress requires NIST to create the AI Risk Management Framework as part of the 2020 National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act.
- New cybersecurity requirements for contractors working with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA finalized a new rule updating and adding new cybersecurity requirements for acquisitions. Among the most significant changes is the addition of a liquidated damages section for a breach of VA-sensitive personal information. Another change is for VA to broaden the term “counterfeit” or gray market IT products to include “used items represented as new, or the false identification of grade, serial number, lot number, date code or performance characteristics.” Finally, a third change is requiring contractors to develop software and perform services within the U.S. “to the maximum extent practicable.” VA issued the proposed rule in November 2021. The final rule goes into effect Feb. 23.
- The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is warning of a cyber exploit that’s already affected agencies. CISA has identified suspected malicious activity on the networks of multiple federal agencies. It stems from a widespread phishing campaign launched last year. The hackers tricked victims into downloading Remote Monitoring and Management Software as part of a refund scam to steal money from their bank accounts. But CISA says the exploit could also be used to gain control of victim networks. CISA and other agencies are recommending network defenders ensure that they’re blocking phishing emails, auditing the use of remote access tools, and checking their logs for any unusual uses of those tools.
- More than two dozen agencies spent more than $40 million through the Commercial Platforms Initiative run by the General Services Administration. New data for fiscal 2022 shows more than 53,000 users submitted over 150,000 orders to the three pilot platform providers. GSA says IT products, office equipment and supplies, and office furniture were the items most often purchased. Meanwhile, user satisfaction was high with 93% saying pricing was fair and 81% saying using the platforms saved them time. GSA plans on expanding the initiative with new awards later this year.
- Military criminal investigators aren’t always keeping DoD procurement integrity officials in the loop when they open cases on suspected contract fraud. The DoD inspector general says that’s a problem, because it can leave officials without the information they’d need to suspend or debar contractors who are behaving badly. In a new report, the IG found Army, Navy and Air Force investigators frequently failed to notify procurement officials when they opened cases, and when they closed them. Those notifications are required by DoD and military service regulations.
- The Defense Department’s new small business strategy focuses on increasing opportunities for smaller companies through training and education. DoD says small businesses can use the 96-APEX accelerators, or assistance centers, across the country to help increase readiness and find more business opportunities with the Pentagon. The strategy emphasizes aligning small business activities with national security priorities. Small businesses make up 73% of companies in the defense industrial base, and last year small businesses were awarded over 25% of all DoD prime contracts.
- Defense Department leaders need more training about how to make decisions in a contested information environment. The recommendation comes from a newly-released Government Accountability Office report. It says at the nation’s adversaries are exploiting social media, IT and other parts of the information environment. While the Pentagon trains its leaders to counter those security threats, it hasn’t issued guidance about what the training should include. GAO says without more direction, military leaders may not be able to make effective decisions.