Momentum continues toward modernizing Congress

In today's Federal Newscast: The momentum continues toward modernizing Congress. President Biden names a Microsoft executive to chair a key cybersecurity adviso...

  • The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress has expired. The former chairman, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), said some 47 of the committee's 202 recommendations have been adopted. The new Republican majority, though, has moved on one of them. "A new subcommittee under House Administration has been established to focus on Congressional modernization," Kilmer said. That subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), and Kilmer will be the ranking member. "I'm excited about that," Kilmer said, adding that it will keep the momentum going.
    (Rep. Derek Kilmer - U.S. Chamber of Commerce event)
  • The Government Accountability Office said the State Department needs to do a better job of tracking U.S. companies and individuals who provide defense services, like supplying technical data or military training directly to foreign governments. GAO reported that the State Department does not have good data on how many disclosures or potential violations involved defense services, so it wants the State Department to keep better track of data on potential violations and improve the thoroughness and accuracy of record-keeping.
  • President Biden has named a Microsoft executive to lead a key cybersecurity advisory board. The White House said the president will appoint Scott Charney to serve as chairman of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. Charney is currently Microsoft's Vice President for Security Policy . Biden also plans to appoint former Lumen Technologies CEO Jeffrey Storey to serve as vice chairman of the committee. The White House just announced a total of 14 new members to serve on the influential panel.
  • The Veterans Affairs Department is trying to address some internal workforce challenges. Human capital leaders at the VA are trying to improve the onboarding process for new employees. That is after getting feedback from VA workers on some of the pain points in the program."We worked with veterans experience offices to say, 'let's make sure new employees have a buddy when they start — not just their supervisor or a co-worker. And then also making sure everybody has some standard information with that welcome kit that they get," said Tracey Therit, the VA's chief human capital officer.
    ( - Federal News Network)
  • Defense Department employees and military service members working in the classified space are about to get a technology boost. The Defense Information Systems Agency moved secret level enterprise collaboration and communication capabilities to the cloud. DISA said it started testing Microsoft Office 365 in a classified cloud with a limited number of users at the end of January. This effort builds on the success of the commercial virtual remote (CVR) environment developed during the early days of the pandemic. DISA officials said in November that they expect to deliver full O365 capabilities through the DEOS program to classified users by June.
  • The Biden administration wants to streamline how agencies screen their employees. The Office of Personnel Management is proposing the use of continuous vetting to screen federal employees and contractors. The system relies on automated records checks rather than periodic background investigations. Most employees with security clearances are already enrolled in continuous vetting. OPM’s proposal would also update screening factors to make it harder for anti-government domestic extremists to find work at agencies. Comments on OPM’s proposed regulations are due in early April.
  • The Veterans Affairs Department’s hiring metrics are headed in the right direction for fiscal 2023. The Veterans Health Administration added more than 5,500 additional employees to its workforce in the first quarter of FY 2023. That led to 1.5% growth in its workforce for the quarter. That is the VA’s highest first-quarter growth rate in six years. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the agency’s workforce numbers are headed in the right direction. “Nothing is more critical to our success than the people we hire and retain at VA,” McDonough said. The VA attributes some of the improved hiring metrics to VHA’s onboarding surge event last November. The Veterans Benefits Administration is holding its own onboarding surge event this week.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is looking for a new chief management officer. The position will support and help resolve management issues across the agency's departments. It will also help oversee performance, for example, in OPM's departments of human resources, information technology, procurement and more. The management role is part of the Senior Executive Service.
  • The new map for small business HUBZone companies is out. The Small Business Administration is offering a preview of the new Qualified Census Tracts and Qualified Non-Metropolitan Counties ahead of the July 1 effective date. The new map will be in effect through July 2028. The SBA said HUBZone firms currently certified, but which no longer are eligible as of July 1, may continue to participate in the contracting program through their annual recertification date.
    (HUBZone Map Overview - Small Business Administration)
  • The new website relaunched with one-stop-shopping for potential recruits. The new site combines three previous recruiting websites into one, allowing recruits for active duty, reserve duty and Air Force National Guard to use the site. The Air Force said it has updated navigation and has created a more user-friendly format, standardizing the initial application process across all service options.
  • The IRS is expanding its free, in-person tax help over the next few months to cover weekends. The IRS said many of its Taxpayer Assistance Centers will be open for special Saturday hours through May. Offices in dozens of states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month. And taxpayers won't need an appointment to get help. The IRS said it’s able to staff up to cover weekends because of the $80 billion it received in the Inflation Reduction Act.


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