Senators want update from OPM on federal retirement improvements

In today's Federal Newscast, bicameral lawmakers are urging the Office of Personnel Management to share its plan to reduce wait times for processing federal emp...

  • Bicameral lawmakers are urging the Office of Personnel Management to share its plan to reduce wait times for processing federal employees’ retirement claims. Feds often have to wait two to three months to start receiving retirement benefits after they submit a claim. The delays stem from OPM’s legacy retirement system, which is largely paper-based. OPM has piloted a retirement services modernization project, and the lawmakers are asking for a timeline on when OPM will roll that out on a larger scale. The letter from lawmakers comes after OPM received an influx of retirement cases at the start of 2023. (Duckworth, Durbin, Kelly urge Office of Personnel Management to address delays in delivering federal retirement benefits – Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.))
  • For the first time in more than a decade, House lawmakers are asking whatever happened to Circular A-76? In a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Republican House Oversight and Accountability subcommittee leaders want details about how agencies are complying with the Federal Activities Inventory Reform or FAIR Act of 1998. The subcommittees are asking for total number of employees across government and the total number per agency who are performing inherently non-governmental work. They also want to know how OMB is vetting agency FAIR Act reports to help them determine which jobs should be considered for outsourcing. The subcommittees are asking for responses by April 14. (Letter to OMB Director Shalanda Young – House Oversight and Accountability Committee)
  • Calling all vendors providing grant management services, the Grants Quality Service Management Office wants to hear from you. The Grants QSMO released a request for information to gather market research on commercial services. The QSMO currently features six shared services all from federal providers. This new RFI is trying to understand what commercial services are available to address the gaps in their current offerings. Additionally, the shared services office is trying to help the federal providers who are limited in the number of customers they can serve. Responses to the RFI are due April 24. (Grants QSMO RFI – General Services Administration)
  • A new IRS commissioner is outlining a plan to transform the agency with its historic new investment. Danny Werfel, a former acting IRS commissioner under the Obama administration, is now sworn in as agency’s 50th permanent commissioner. Werfel during his five-year term will be the first commissioner to spend down a significant portion of the nearly $80 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act meant for the IRS to rebuild its workforce and modernize its legacy IT over the next decade. Werfel said the IRS isn’t hiring an army of IRS agents, as House Republicans have warned. “Despite what some might think or say, these public servants within the IRS are armed only with calculators and their skills to help us address complex issues.” (IRS commissioner Werfel sworn in to transform agency with ‘historic’ investment – Federal News Network)
  • Doug Beck is the new leader of DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit. Beck joins DoD from Apple, where he served as a vice president overseeing the company’s global business development. He’s also a captain in the Navy reserve. The Pentagon is making another big change alongside Beck’s appointment: DIU will now report directly to the secretary of Defense. Up until Tuesday, the organization reported to the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment. (Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Announces New Director of the Defense Innovation Unit – Department of Defense)
  • New legislation introduced in the Senate seeks to help the Defense Department build on its cyber workforce and create new military careers across active and reserve components. The fields would include computer programming, coding and AI-related skills so the department can better recruit, retain and manage technological talent among servicemembers. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois introduced the bill. It is intended as an incentive for recruiting and a way for the military to draw from a civilian workforce that has much-needed technical skills. (Duckworth introduces bill to help invest in tech talent in our armed forces – Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.))
  • Agencies may soon have a clearer picture of the gaps in their cyber workforce. The Office of Personnel Management is launching a pair of online dashboards with details on federal cyber staff. There will be one public-facing dashboard for job applicants, as well as an internal dashboard for agencies. The agency-facing dashboard will include more granular information, such as attrition rates, retirement eligibility and workforce demographics. OPM said agencies will get access to the new resource within the next couple of months. (Federal News Network)
  • Four Senate Republicans want to elevate a key cyber office at the Energy Department. Their new bill would require a Senate-confirmed, assistant secretary to lead the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response. CESER was created in 2018. It’s currently led by an unconfirmed director. The GOP sponsors of the bill said CESER’s leadership should be accountable to Congress during a time of rising cyber threats to the energy grid. But Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has previously pushed back on the idea, arguing that making it a political appointment could lead to delays in filling the important position. (Crapo, Risch Lead Legislation to Boost Department of Energy Cybersecurity Office – Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho))
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs faces yet another bill that would put the troubled rollout of its new Electronic Health Record on hold, this time from Senate Republicans. Senate VA Committee Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) is leading 11 of his colleagues in introducing the VA EHR Modernization Standardization and Accountability Act. The bill would require the VA to demonstrate its new EHR meets performance metrics at the five sites already using it, before it can roll it out at new facilities. Democrats on the committee released their own EHR bill last week. Both parties in the House VA Committee have also introduced their own bills. (Sen. Moran Leads Legislation to Improve Electronic Health Record System Before Rollout Continues – Senate Veterans Affairs Committee)
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency looks to the future of a key warning system. FEMA is working with entertainment companies, auto manufacturers and other industries to adapt technologies to support the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said the agency wants to create a universal alerting ecosystem where people can be reached over any medium that communicates information. The current warning system has been in place since 2012 and distributed more than 5 million emergency alerts. But Criswell said FEMA is keeping its eyes on the future, with more people using an expanded range of streaming platforms and other digital technologies. (FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell’s Remarks at the 2023 National Hurricane Conference – Federal Emergency Management Agency)

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