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The loophole that allowed a direct route from service academies to professional football will close this year. The 2023 Defense Authorization Act bill will only allow service academy graduates to accept professional sports contracts two years after graduation. A 2019 memo from then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, at the direction of President Donald Trump, allowed academy athletes to defer service or repay their tuition if they opted to play professional sports. Since then, several top football players went pro after academy graduation.
House Republicans plan to revive the Holman rule. That rule lets lawmakers make changes, including cuts, to federal employees’ salaries and agency staffing levels. House Republicans’ proposed rules package for the 118th Congress would revive the provision. The Holman rule was last in place in 2017 and 2018, and before that not since 1983. The House Republicans’ rules package additionally proposes establishing a select subcommittee to investigate federal spending on COVID-19 pandemic relief initiatives. (House Republicans introduce plans to revive ‘Holman rule’ in Congress – Federal News Network)
The Office of Personnel Management reminds agencies of the policies for putting former political appointees in career civil service positions. Certain types of positions require agencies to get approval from OPM before filling the jobs with those former appointees. To speed up the approval process, agencies should give OPM access to the case in the staffing system within two days of a request. OPM has also compiled a pre-appointment checklist to help agencies prepare to submit their official requests.
One of the longest serving agency CIOs has called it quits. Raghav Vajjhala has been the chief information officer at the Federal Trade Commission since 2015, but he has decided it is time to move on. Vajjhala’s last day was December 30th and he has yet to announce a new position after seven-plus years at the agency. During his tenure at the FTC, Vajjhala moved more than 70% of all applications to the cloud, modernized the network backbone to use software-defined networking and achieved a zero trust cyber architecture. Vajjhala joined FTC after working for five-plus years as the Treasury Department’s chief technology officer and for five-plus years at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Mark Gray is the deputy CIO, but it is unclear if he will be the acting CIO.
In the five years since the General Services Administration launched its Centers of Excellence, 30 federal organizations have benefited from the expertise across the eight technology areas of focus. In recognizing the CoE’s impact since its creation in 2017, GSA said these technology experts have helped save money at the Agriculture Department, modernized technology infrastructure at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and improved the use of data analytics at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The CoEs currently are working on 23 projects across the government and expect to have more work coming from funding under the American Rescue Plan Act in the coming year.
The Department of Veterans Affairs expects to keep growing its benefits division’s workforce. The Veterans Benefits Administration is looking to hire an additional 1,900 employees in the first half of fiscal 2023. Those new hires are needed to help the agency handle more than 213,000 claims it received so far under the PACT Act. The agency has already completed onboarding steps for about 40% of that target workforce. Acting Undersecretary for Benefits Josh Jacobs told reporters that VBA is also looking to hire an additional 2,500 employees by the end of FY 2023. “The bottom line is we want to send a message to veterans that we’re ready,” Jacobs said. (VBA plans to hire thousands more employees to handle PACT Act claims – Federal News Network)
Congress homes in on the Department of Homeland Security’s beleaguered biometrics program. The omnibus spending bill signed last week cuts $17 million from the Biden administration’s request for the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System. HART is being designed as DHS’s next-generation biometrics sharing system, but the program is years behind schedule. Lawmakers also want an independent review of HART’s data sharing agreements. Civil liberties groups have raised concerns about the amount of potentially sensitive information the system is being designed to process. (Congress rejects funding increase for DHS biometric system, directs independent review – Federal News Network)
A small-business owner can have a net worth of up to $850,000 and still be counted as a small disadvantaged business. New rules that took effect Dec. 19 raised the threshold from $750,000. The Small Business Administration made the change to account for inflation. Those inflation reviews are only required once every five years. The next one wasn’t scheduled until 2024, but SBA acted sooner because of recent high inflation rates.
In an effort to hire more civilian cybersecurity employees, the Defense Department will offer academic scholarships for higher education in a program called the Cyber and Digital Service Academy. The new initiative will pay tuition and all other expenses for qualified students. In return, the students will be required to work for DoD for an amount of time equal to time spent getting the degree. The Academy will pay up to five years of tuition for either university degrees or certificate programs that focus on cybersecurity studies. (Congress greenlights expansion of Defense Department’s cyber workforce – Federal News Network)
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is expected to increase its outreach to industry this year. The omnibus spending bill signed by President Joe Biden last week directs CISA to hold quarterly outreach sessions with a broad array of small, mid-size, and large cyber security businesses. It also directs CISA to create opportunities for “small group and one-on-one industry sessions.” Lawmakers said they want to make sure CISA, along with its fast-growing budget, is working closely with industry on cybersecurity challenges and opportunities.
The State Department is looking for the next generation of its IT workforce. The department is now accepting applications for the latest cohort of its Foreign Affairs IT Fellowship. The two-year fellowship includes a U.S.-based internship with the State Department, followed by an internship at a U.S. embassy abroad. The fellowship accepts undergraduate and graduate students completing a degree in IT. The fellowship is one of several programs of its kind meant to increase the diversity of the State Department’s workforce. The department is accepting applications through February 3.