Employees of the Defense Department need reliable child care, but they often face long waitlists and trouble affording DoD childcare centers. A report from the Government Accountability Office said the centers do meet military-specific needs like offering care for families who frequently relocate and work non-traditional hours. The reports said the department has taken some steps to increase childcare availability including building more child development centers, expanding the pool of eligible community-based providers, and increasing fee assistance available to families.
A new bill could change how cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for federal retirees. The Fair COLA for Seniors Act would require Social Security to calculate cost-of-living adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E). It is a price index focused on individuals ages 62 and up that puts greater emphasis on healthcare spending. The Fair COLA for Seniors Act would provide the same change for retirees in both the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System. Proponents of the bill say it will ensure fairer COLAs for seniors and federal retirees, by more accurately tracking their spending habits.
Employees who violate certain federal civil statutes or regulations will soon have to pay higher penalties. The Office of Personnel Management has finalized the annual dollar increase, which has risen to about $13,500 for 2023. That's about $1,000 more than the 2022 penalty rate. The annual adjustment is set in statute and based on the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPIU).
Cybersecurity shared services from CISA took off in 2022. Federal civilian agencies easily surpassed the governmentwide goal to adopt cybersecurity shared services by more than one and a half times last fiscal year. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency reported in their fourth quarter President's Management Agenda update that agencies adopted 77 shared solutions, easily beating the goal of 50. Overall, agencies used a total of 131 cyber shared services last year. These services include automated indicator sharing service, which was among the most popular, mobile application vetting, the vulnerability disclosure policy platform and several others.
Agencies have received new guidance for how to advance the Biden administration's Justice 40 initiative. The Office of Management and Budget is telling agencies to use the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) to identify and direct funding opportunities to geographically defined disadvantaged communities under the Justice40 initiative. Additionally, agencies should use CEJST for programs where a law directs resources to disadvantaged communities. By October, the start of fiscal 2024, OMB said agencies are expected to use CEJST for any new investments that fall under the Justice40 interim guidance issued in July 2021.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has the attention of a top House lawmaker. CISA Director Jen Easterly met with new House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) last week. In a statement, Rep. Green said he is looking forward to a productive relationship with Easterly, but said he is concerned by what he called the Biden administration’s aggressive regulatory approach on cyber. Green said he wants to strengthen CISA as an information enabler, rather than as a regulatory agency. CISA is currently developing regulations for a cyber incident reporting law passed by Congress last year.
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to incentivize agencies to lease space they don’t need. The SMART Leasing Act would create a pilot program that would allow agencies to sublease underutilized real estate to “any person or entity at fair market value." That includes another federal, state, or local government agency. The bill allows agencies to use rent payments to help fund capital projects and facilities maintenance. Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and members James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) re-introduced the bill, after it failed to pass in the last session of Congress.
A survey released by the Defense Business Board indicates that 80% of Pentagon employees rate their IT user experience as average or below average. The board conducted the survey as part of a study to improve DoD user experience. Some of the most common user complaints included spending too much time logging in and the repeated need for re-authentication. Another glitch that users said they experience is that help desks don’t communicate with each other, and they end up with unresolved issues that get reticketed with new help desk requests.
Top Republicans on the House Veterans Affairs Committee are seeking an update on the VA’s recent policy to provide abortions to some patients. Committee Chairman Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) are asking the VA to provide the total number of abortions it has provided since last fall. That's when the VA issued an interim final rule permitting abortions in life-threatening situations or in cases of rape and incest. The lawmakers say that rule exceeds the VA’s legal authority.