The General Services Administration is trying to assure lawmakers that it is fixing the culture problems that led to the problems with login.gov. Sonny Hashmi, the commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, was on the hot seat yesterday answering House lawmakers' questions about the agency's false assertions about the Login.gov platform. Hashmi told lawmakers GSA is applying tougher internal controls to ensure these problems don't happen again. This includes his office and team reviewing all contracts managed by the Technology Transformation Service. "With this independent review, we want to make sure that all contract actions meet the Federal Acquisition Regulations and the appropriate regulations, policies and law," Hashmi said. He added that trust and transparency are key currencies they must maintain as they provide services to other agencies.
Employee engagement scores are dropping even for some of the best places to work in government. All but two of the top 10 large agencies in the Partnership for Public Service’s rankings are facing declining satisfaction scores from federal employees. The downward trend has persisted for a majority of agencies since 2020, including for NASA, which remains the number one spot. The Partnership said uncertainty about return-to-office, as well as pay raises that don't match inflation, likely contributed to the drop. Employees also gave agencies lower scores this year for work-life balance and overall agency performance.
A group of House Democrats wants to create another investment option for Thrift Savings Plan participants. A bill called the Federal Employees Sustainable Investment Act would establish a new TSP fund, the Corporate Responsibility Stock Index Fund. The new fund option, if the legislation is enacted, would mainly include climate and environment-related investments. The bill was introduced last Congress as well, but did not move forward in the legislative process.
Several government technology bills are on the move in the Senate. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a slew of bills yesterday, including the Improving Digital Identity Act. That bill would establish a task force to advance digital ID verification policies and practices across agencies. The committee also approved the Securing Open Source Software Act, which would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to ensure open-source software is secure across government and critical infrastructure. And the panel unanimously advanced the Federal Data Center Enhancement Act. The bill would require physical and digital security protections around agency data centers.
Senate Democrats have joined the call to pause new rollouts of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ new Electronic Health Record. Senate VA Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and committee members Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said they will introduce EHR reform legislation in the coming days. The EHR Program RESET Act, would prevent the VA from proceeding with EHR go-lives at additional facilities until sites already using the system show improvement. The bill would also require the VA to come up with “an alternative ‘Plan B’ strategy” in case the Oracle-Cerner EHR fails to meet expectations.
A federal employees union wants the Defense Department to solve its supply chain problems with increased use of the public industrial base. The White House authorized the use the Defense Production Act to speed up production in some industries considered vital to national security. In a letter, the American Federation of Government Employees told the Secretary of Defense that public sector employees should handle the work. The union said the private sector doesn't have enough capacity for the needed production levels, and those quotas can only be reached by fully employing the organic defense production capability.
Improper payments in fiscal 2022 topped $247 billion, but that is down by more than $30 billion since 2021. The Government Accountability Office found of that $247 billion, overpayment errors accounted for about $200 billion. GAO said the top five largest programs — Medicaid, Medicare, the Paycheck Protection Program, Unemployment Insurance and the Earned Income Tax Credit — were responsible for about 78% of all improper payments. The audit agency plans to report quarterly on agency progress to reduce improper payments and what departments and Congress can do to address these long-standing challenges.
The Army Futures Command adds a new cross-functional team focused on contested logistics. The team will begin work next month, based in Huntsville, Alabama, in a partnership between the Army Materiel Command and the Army Futures Command. Cross-functional teams work together at developing modernization efforts. The original six teams focused on Army modernization priorities including long-range precision firing and precision navigation and timing. More teams will likely form in the future, while some of the original ones will finish their objectives and stand down.
Close to three-quarters of federal employees said telework has improved productivity at their agency "a great deal." In a union-conducted survey of more than 3,000 federal employees nationwide, 77% of respondents believe reducing telework would make recruitment and retention more difficult for federal agencies. A majority of respondents also said understaffing and limited resources were the main causes for backlogs at agencies during the pandemic — not telework.
Controversy continues to swirl around a Customs and Border Protection mobile application used by migrants seeking asylum. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) wrote Homeland Security officials this week expressing grave concerns about CBP One. Booker said the app is plagued by bad processes and glitches that make it difficult for migrants to secure appointments. He argued the problems are a result of a rushed and inadequate development and testing process. Booker urged officials to address problems with the app and set up alternative processes for those seeking asylum.
A bipartisan group bill, incentivizing agencies to lease office space they don’t need, moves on to a Senate floor vote. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the Saving Money and Accelerating Repairs Through Leasing Act (SMART). The bill would create a pilot program that would allow agencies to sublease underutilized real estate to any person or organization at fair market value, including 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 committee members James Lankford (R-Okla.) Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced the bill.