The White House is making its case to Congress for another influx of money for technology modernization. The Biden administration is asking for $200 million for the Technology Modernization Fund for fiscal 2024. That is $100 million dollars less than the administration requested in the 2023 budget. The White House said in its request to Congress the TMF funding would have a large impact on delivering modernized and secure user facing services. Since 2018, the TMF Board has invested $700 million in 38 projects across 22 agencies. Congress approved $50 million for the TMF in the 2023 omnibus bill in December.
The House Oversight and Accountability Committee doubled down on questions about operations of the government's personnel agency. Republican committee members pressed Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja on the government's telework policy. They said federal telework leads to issues with public-facing government services. But Democrats and OPM officials argued that telework is beneficial for workforce recruitment and retention. Lawmakers also pressed Ahuja on plans to fix the federal hiring process, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and the retirement case backlog.
( - Federal News Network)
The Defense Department has a new strategy to improve its cyber workforce. DoD said about 25% of its cyber and IT positions are vacant at the moment. The new strategy aims to increase hiring and retention, but also improve how DoD identifies its workforce needs and develops its employees over time. The department said it will publish more specifics on how it will achieve the strategy in a forthcoming implementation plan. Officials said they will publish that plan “soon,” but have not offered an exact timeline, yet.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency would get another budget bump under the White House’s annual request. The Biden administration is seeking $3.1 billion for CISA in fiscal 2024. That is a $145 million increase over the current budget. The request includes $98 million for CISA to implement new cyber incident reporting requirements for critical infrastructure. And it also includes $425 million for CISA’s internal cybersecurity and analytical capabilities. CISA has received bipartiasan support for the last several years. But Republican lawmakers recently said they want to see more details on how the agency is using its funds.
The IRS is bringing back a former leader experienced at helping the agency overcome challenges. The Senate confirmed former acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel to serve as the agency’s permanent commissioner for a five-year term. Werfel will be the first IRS commissioner to spend a significant portion of the nearly $80 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act meant for the agency to rebuild its workforce and modernize its legacy IT over the next decade. The Biden administration meanwhile proposes giving the IRS a $14.1 billion budget for fiscal 2024 to ensure that taxpayers receive the highest quality customer service. The budget request is a 15% increase from current levels.
Strengthening the federal workforce is one overarching theme in President Joe Biden's fiscal 2024 budget request sent to Congress yesterday. Along with the proposed 5.2% pay raise, the White House plans to invest $464 million in the Office of Personnel Management. That is more than $78 million dollars over the 2023 enacted level for salaries and expenses to support staffing and to improve customer service provided by OPM to federal agencies, to support the federal government’s strategic workforce planning-and-talent acquisition functions. Overall, the White House is requesting $1.63 trillion in total discretionary funding, a 4.8% increase over the 2023 enacted levels. The defense agencies would receive $886.4 billion and the non-defense agencies would receive $688.1 billion.
The Defense Department would get a 3.2% spending increase under the 2024 budget plan, the Biden administration announced yesterday. The White House requested more than $800 billion in defense spending. Among the top-line priorities: increased cybersecurity to protect the defense industrial base and DoD networks. The plan includes a 5.2% pay raise for both civilian and uniformed employees, plus higher military housing and subsistence allowances.
They may not rate high on the nutrition charts, but the Agriculture Department is searching for better potato chips. Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service's lab in Idaho are working to breed a new potato chip potato. The experimental spud is known as A-13-125-3-C. It shows what the lab calls, "much potential" when run through the national chip processing trial, conducted by USDA along with academia and the food industry. Each year, more than 7.5 billion pounds of potatoes become chips. If it works out, the new potato could edge out the Atlantic variety, king of the chips since 1976.
The Department of Health and Human Services is shining a light on cybersecurity best practices for the healthcare sector. The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) released a cybersecurity implementation guide this week. The standards are voluntary, but HHS said healthcare organizations can use the guide to assess their current cybersecurity practices and risks. Officials said healthcare cyber attacks are among the fastest growing type of cyber crime.
As many as 7% of enlisted personnel experience food insecurity. That was the message from senior enlisted leaders at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday. Top non-commissioned officers from each service branch testified at the hearing. They highlighted hardships experienced by enlisted personnel in the areas of housing and living expenses. The message: pay and housing allowances have failed to keep up with inflation. They said in many cases junior enlisted personnel face the choice of paying their bills or buying food.
Two lawmakers want to reform operations for the Office of Personnel Management. House Democrats on the Oversight and Accountability Committee introduce a bill to improve OPM's programs and functions. The changes are based on a 2021 study from the National Academy of Public Administration. Some of the reforms focus on hiring flexibilities, training opportunities and retirement processing. Under the legislation, future candidates for OPM director would also be required to have human capital and leadership expertise.
The Biden administration is asking for half a billion dollars to improve customer experience across government. Much of that funding would go to the State Department, which is planning to launch an online passport renewal platform to the general public later this year. The department spent much of last year stress-testing the system through a pilot program, accepting 500,000 applications through the system. The budget request also includes significant funding for the General Services Administration to keep developing digital customer experience tools that have a governmentwide impact.