Census Bureau, it turns out, didn’t spend as much as once thought

In today's Federal Newscast: The Census Bureau didn't spend as much as once thought. Another bridge across the valley of death is being built for small-business...

  • The Census Bureau’s most expensive count won’t cost as much as expected. The 2020 Census will still be the bureau’s most expensive decennial count to date, but by the time the Census Bureau wraps up its work by 2024, it expects it will have spent $13.7 billion on the project. That is compared to earlier projections of $15.6 billion. The bureau told the Government Accountability Office that enumerators going door-to-door were more productive than expected, using laptops to record data rather than using pen and paper, as they had in the past. The 2010 Census was previously the most expensive decennial count. It cost the bureau about $13 billion.
  • GSA has begun the formal process to construct another bridge across the valley of death for small-business contractors. The General Services Administration is taking the first step toward addressing one of the big criticisms of the Small Business Innovation Research or SBIR program. GSA released a request for information for its Research, Innovation and Outcomes or RIO vehicle. Under RIO, GSA would create a multiple award IDIQ contract to support existing and future requirements using the SBIR Phase III authority. GSA is asking companies in the SBIR program to submit award documents as well as whether they would be interested in being a part of RIO. Responses to the RFI are due by March 10.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is taking on some workforce challenges. CISA expects to wrap up a major review of its staffing requirements this year. The agency told the Department of Homeland Security inspector general that the force structure assessment has been ongoing since mid-2021. The IG, in a new report, found understaffing has been one of CISA’s major challenges. More than one-third of CISA’s 3,600 authorized full-time positions were vacant as of last August.
  • Agencies have made some progress on the priorities of the President's Management Agenda. The Office of Management and Budget points to a new internship portal on USA Jobs, as well as updated guidance on recruitment and retention of early-career employees, as examples of progress. Those are a handful of efforts that align with the PMA's first priority, strengthening and empowering the federal workforce. But OMB's leader for the PMA has said there's still a long way to go. Agencies should continue tracking progress on the priority using information like the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, and staffing targets for mission-critical occupations.
  • Small candidate pools and low diversity are just a few of the recruitment challenges at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. That is according to the Government Accountability Office. GAO said those challenges can cause long-term issues too. Limited staff diversity, for example, can create an unwelcoming environment for women, in some cases causing them to leave. And despite using pay incentives, NIST has trouble staying competitive with the private sector. To improve its long-term workforce strategy, GAO recommended that NIST keep better track of the effectiveness of those pay flexibilities.
  • Agencies finally have more specific details for how to accelerate the environmental review-and-permitting process. The Office of Management and Budget's 16-page memo answers 15 questions and offers further instructions for adding infrastructure projects to the permitting dashboard. The implementation memo outlines the role of the federal permitting council, agency specific teams and factors to consider when establishing permitting timelines. Agencies must submit their permitting action plans by April 5 to OMB, the Council on Environmental Quality and the permitting council. This implementation memo follows the Biden administration's permitting action plan released last May.
  • The Energy Department is seeking ideas for how it could help contribute to a strong quantum workforce. DOE said its 17 national labs are a primary employer for a growing cadre of quantum information science professionals. In a new request for information, the agency asked for input on quantum training and educational requirements. DOE’s Office of Science is developing a plan that will complement the workforce training already being offered by higher education institutions to those studying quantum information science.
  • DoD defines irregular as, "a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s).” That noted, the military health system hosted a working group to expand medical care for irregular warfare. It brought in medical communities from across the government and special operations medical personnel from allied countries. They participated in an Irregular Warfare Medical Resiliency Working group. It’s part of the National Defense strategy to combine and coordinate coalition strengths to maximum effect. The meeting was the first in a series of working groups meant to focus on building ally and partner capacity for casualty care to enhance medical resiliency.
  • The State Department is accepting applications for 200 college interns this fall, made up of upper classmen and graduate students. The paid positions also include housing and transportation. The department will focus on recruiting students from historically underrepresented backgrounds.
  • The Defense Department has recognized outstanding participants in its Mentor Protégé Program. The 2022 Nunn-Perry Award winners identifed Mentor-Protégé teams that exhibited exemplary protégé growth and development under their respective agreements. Among the winners were Army contractor Tec-Masters working with GeneCapture and WISC Enterprises mentoring STEMboard with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Also, Parsons Government Services mentoring KODA Technologies and Raytheon Missiles mentoring FUSE Integration, both with the Missile Defense Agency. The Mentor Protégé Program assists DoD prime contractors in meeting their Small Disadvantaged Business subcontracting goals.

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