A Senate committee said a new Electronic Health System is having fatal consequences the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA said it understands what went wrong in previous deployments of its new EHR from Oracle-Cerner. But members of the Senate VA Committee said the agency recently notified them of six catastrophic events related to an EHR feature over the last couple of years. Members of the committee said four of those catastrophic events resulted Fatalities. The Oracle-Cerner EHR is currently used by about 10,000 VA employees across five medical centers. Full-scale deployment would bring it to more than 170 total VA medical centers.
The federal workforce is becoming slightly more diverse. Women now comprise 45% of federal employees, up 1% since 2020. The number of veterans in the federal workforce has also increased by about 1% in the last two years. Employees with disabilities make up 18% of the federal workforce, compared with 15% in 2020. That is according to data from the White House. The Biden administration said it plans to continue collecting demographic data for the federal workforce, in an effort to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has kicked-off the competition for its $60 billion IT services vehicle. Vendors start your engines. The race is on to earn a spot on the Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation 2 contract vehicle. VA released the final solicitation for this potential 10-year multiple award contract with a ceiling of almost $61 billion. VA outlined 13 functional areas ranging from program management support to systems and software engineering to cloud computing. The current T4NG, awarded in 2018, is scheduled to sunset in March 2026 and VA has obligated almost $12 billion under the contract. Bids on the final T4NG2 RFP are due April 17.
The Department of Homeland Security is putting some structure around its customer experience initiatives. DHS is establishing a customer experience directorate this year. The department is requesting $10 million in its fiscal 2024 budget to build out the new organization. DHS has also brought on Dana Chisnell to lead the new CX office. Chisnell has had multiple stints in the U.S. Digital Service. DHS’ CX efforts are focused on high-impact service providers like the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The department in recent months has hired more than 20 customer-experience experts to help spearhead CX initiatives across its components.
More than 50,000 Defense Health Agency (DHA) employees will be represented by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) if the paperwork gets approved. The union filed certification requests with the Federal Labor Relations Authority to represent employees who transferred from other military services to DHA. The DHA union would be a new organization under the AFGE umbrella. If the approval goes through, about half the DHA employees would have representation under AFGE. The other workers would have representation with smaller unions, or remain unrepresented.
An IRS watchdog is asking Congress to redirect additional agency funding toward better taxpayer service and IT modernization. National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins said only about 10% of the nearly $80 billion the IRS is getting in the Inflation Reduction Act will go toward IT and customer experience improvements. The rest is focused on enforcement and operations support. Collins said that the IRS making it easier for households to pay their taxes, will help narrow a growing tax gap between what the agency is supposed to collect every year and what it is able to bring in.
The General Services Administration is trying to bring some more standardization to how agencies manage federal properties. It is seeking feedback from agencies, industry and others on draft real property management business standards, as part of the governmentwide shared-services initiative. The goal is to drive real estate management consistency, equity and standardization across the government. GSA said the guiding principles to establish the final real property management business standards include: Are the requirements easy to understand and what services or technology supports the standards. Comments on these proposed standards are due by April 7.
The Biden administration is asking for a big funding boost to help with recruitment and retention of federal firefighters. The White House budget request for fiscal 2024 includes increased funding at both the Agriculture and the Interior Departments, where most federal firefighters are employed. The administration is also looking to ensure that all federal firefighters are paid at least $15 an hour, and to establish a more equitable pay structure for the frontline employees. Overall, these proposed increases reach $316 million above the 2023 enacted level.
Space Force’s requested budget for fiscal 2024 would increase funding by 15% over the enacted 2023 budget. Among the force’s fast-growing expansion plans, is a commercial augmentation space reserve. The reserve space fleet would operate in a similar fashion to the existing air or maritime civil reserve fleets that are only called up when the military needs them. Gen. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations for the Space Force, said the reserve fleet would be a good test of how much the private sector could potentially provide as a force multiplier and partner to Space Force.
Military agencies and defense contractors get new guidance to help with their zero trust efforts. The National Security Agency this week released guidelines for advancing user security, one of the key pillars of zero trust. The NSA document sketches out how owners of national security systems should handle identity, credential and access management. Officials said identity-based hacks remain the most prevalent form of cyber attack.