Federal employees' experience with prohibited personnel practices is on the decline. About 29% of federal employees reported seeing at least one prohibited personnel practice in the workplace. Those include things like discrimination and whistleblower retaliation. That is according to the latest report from the Merit Systems Protection Board. The 29% is a decrease since 2016, when 46% of feds said they either saw or experienced a prohibited practice, as well as 34% in 2010. MSPB said feds perceive some types of prohibited personnel practices more often. For example, federal employees reported seeing discrimination most often based on race, sex and age, in that order.
President Joe Biden’s pick to run the IRS is heading for a Senate floor vote. The Senate Finance Committee approved Danny Werfel to serve a five-year term as IRS commissioner. Werfel previously served as controller at the Office of Management and Budget, as well as acting IRS commissioner during the Obama administration. If confirmed, Werfel said he would help the IRS spend some of the $80 billion received under the Inflation Reduction Act to make the agency more accessible to taxpayers with questions.
An independent commission led by two former Defense secretaries said the nation’s criminal justice system needs better tools to identify and support veterans when they are arrested to deal with their unique needs. The VA has databases meant to do just that, but a new report by the Veterans Justice Commission said state and local police almost never use them. The commission was led by former secretaries Chuck Hagel and Leon Panetta.
The demand for Freedom of Information Act requests reached a record high in fiscal 2022. Agencies saw 928,353 incoming requests, according to annual FOIA reports published this year. Agencies also processed a record 878,420 requests last year. The Department of Homeland Security alone accounted for more than 542,000 requests received and more than 500,000 requests processed in fiscal 2022.
The Biden administration is trying to give federal watchdogs more time and money to tackle COVID-19 fraud. The White House is asking Congress for $1.6 billion to help agency inspectors general and federal law enforcement staff up to handle pandemic fraud claims. The spending would allow the Justice Department to triple the number of strike force teams focused on going after COVID fraud led by criminal syndicates and major fraudsters. The White House is also calling on Congress to double the statute of limitations to prosecute unemployment insurance fraud cases from five years to 10 years. The White House said it would currently take agencies decades to prosecute their current caseload with existing resources.
New legislation would create tax benefits for businesses that hire military spouses. The legislation was introduced by a bipartisan group of congressmen including Don Beyer (D-Va.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and John Carter (R-Texas). The Military Spouse Hiring Act would also allow military spouses to qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. The Senate introduced a companion bill along similar lines.
The Air Force is loosening its tattoo policy as part of a change in standards for future recruits. As part of this broader effort to increase recruitment numbers, the service will now allow chest and back tattoos, as long as they can't be seen when in uniform. Some hand tattoos are allowed, as well as one neck tattoo no bigger than an inch that stays behind the ears. The Air Force is also considering lowering body fat standards and increasing enlistment bonuses.
A longtime federal IT leader has a new home. Gerald Caron is now the Chief Information Officer at the International Trade Administration. Caron was previously CIO for the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services. He began his public service in the Army, and served in various technical roles at the State Department as well. At the International Trade Administration, Caron will oversee the IT needs of about 2,200 employees spread across 100 U.S. cities and 80 international markets.
The Agriculture Department has a new leader taking the reins on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. USDA has named L’Tonya Davis as its first permanent Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Davis will be the new lead on implementing the department's strategic plan for DEIA. The CDIO position is responsible for working with other department leaders to include DEIA initiatives in USDA's overall goals. Davis previously served as Director of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Communications and Project Management.
The Biden administration is calling on agencies to give text notifications a try as a way for members of the public to receive critical updates on their government benefits. That is one of several new interagency projects the administration is launching as part of its executive order on improving federal customer experience. The White House has directed agencies to focus on working together to improve several life experiences, like raising a child in a low-income house and transitioning out of active-duty military service.
(FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Launches Nine Life Experience Projects to Streamline Service Delivery for the American People - White House)