Feds focus on TSP’s future, as Uncle Sam steps toward financial cliff

In today's Federal Newscast: Investors worry about TSP's future, if the government defaults on it debt obligations. Marines are spending more time in basic trai...

  • The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board is doing some reshuffling. A new office within the agency that manages the Thrift Savings Plan is hoping to improve participants' interactions with TSP. The new division, called the Office of Participant Experience, is tasked with handling many of the new TSP features, including the mobile app, the virtual assistant and the live chat window. The office has plans to improve satisfaction rates, which have declined for certain TSP features, including the live chat window. The satisfaction rate for that feature is currently about 60%, likely due to wait times to chat online in real-time with a customer service agent.
    (Office of Participant Experience - Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board)
  • As debt ceiling negotiations continue, feds want to know the possible impact on the Thrift Savings Plan. The Treasury Department suspended reinvestment in the G Fund in January, and even suspending full investment of the G Fund does not affect TSP participants, or their earning of interest. That is according to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. During a suspension, participants can still move money between funds, take out loans and make withdrawals. TSP investors in the G Fund are protected and their full earnings are guaranteed once an agreement on debt negotiations is reached. But if the government defaults on its debt, that presents a different question, without many answers. "We don't know because thankfully it's never happened before. Trust me, we've asked," the TSP board's Director of External Affairs Kim Weaver said. Weaver added that the Treasury Department has, so far, not provided a clear answer on what the impact would be, should a default occur.
    (FRTIB responds to question about impact of debt ceiling negotiations on TSP participants - Federal News Network)
  • Cyber Command's number two officer is expected to be nominated to serve as the next chief of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command. Air Force Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh would get a four-star promotion as the head of the two organizations. He would replace Gen. Paul Nakasone, who has led NSA and CYBERCOM since 2018. Nakasone plans to retire this summer. An Air Force spokesperson confirmed the nomination to Federal News Network on Tuesday. The news was first reported by Politico.
    (Air Force public affairs - Federal News Network)
  • Some House Republicans are pushing for pay increases at the Transportation Security Administration, with some important caveats. The House Appropriations Committee’s draft 2024 homeland security spending bill would fund pay increases for Transportation Security Officers, but prohibit any pay reforms for TSA employees that are not frontline officers. The draft bill also includes no funding to expand collective bargaining or merit system protections at TSA. The 2023 spending bill already included some funding to help bring salaries at TSA in line with the rest of the federal workforce. The appropriations committee has postponed the mark-up of the 2024 spending bill to accommodate the negotiations over the debt ceiling.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to spend remaining COVID-19 funds that lawmakers want to claw back. The VA has about $2 billion in remaining funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and expects to fully spend those funds before they expire at the end of the fiscal year. Members of the House VA Committee, however, are calling on the VA to return the money, now that the Biden administration has declared an end to the COVID-19 public health emergency. VA Chief Financial Officer Jon Rychalski said the ARP funds were never set-aside specifically for COVID, and that the funds are going toward day-to-day operations. “We were very clear ARP was going to be used with baseline funding for all health care for this year," Rychalski said.
  • Agencies have new requirements for how they will report financial data in 2023. The Office of Management and Budget updated Circular A-136 with several significant changes. For example, agencies now have new accounting rules for leases of facilities. Another change is how agencies report how they obtain cryptocurrency, which will be a non-monetary asset until further guidance comes out. A third change requires agencies to report on the integrity of not just high-priority programs, but all programs.
  • Federal executives at small and micro agencies have some additional help in meeting the technology challenges specific to them. The Federal CIO Council and GSA’s IT modernization division's new small agency CIO and IT executive handbook outlines a five-step approach to managing their technology portfolios. The handbook also offers insights around topics ranging from cloud services to data-center optimization to shared services. The goal of the handbook is to provide a foundational understanding of responsibilities related to IT for agencies that may not have a person designated as their CIO or for an executive that wears multiple hats.
  • Marines going to basic training will spend almost twice as long in the program as recruits did two years ago. It's part of an effort to train Marines across specialties so they have more general knowledge. Marine Corps Commandant David Berger said Marines now learn to use a wide variety of weapons instead of just one system, and they learn basic emergency medical care. The Marine School of Infantry started lengthening its program in 2021, and seeks to train for increasingly complex battle scenarios.
  • The Postal Service Office of Inspector General recommends USPS update its process for managing post office suspensions. The IG said the changes need to reflect the agency's current organizational structure. Auditors said USPS should implement plans to resolve suspensions in a more timely manner. A post office suspension occurs when USPS temporarily stops service at a Postal Service-operated retail facility. The Postal Regulatory Commission, since fiscal 2020, has required USPS to provide plans to resolve suspensions in its annual compliance report. USPS requires suspended facilities to either be re-opened or permanently closed, typically within 180 to 280 days of suspension. USPS has reported 381 unresolved post office suspensions since 2020.
  • The Biden administration is seeking feedback on how federal agencies could benefit from generative AI tools, like ChatGPT, to meet their missions. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is releasing a request for information, seeking feedback for its upcoming National AI Strategy. Ahead of that strategy, OSTP is asking how agencies can leverage AI to improve service delivery and is looking for high-priority use cases. OSTP will accept comments through July 7.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is looking for capabilities that can help combat identity fraud. DHS’s Science and Technology directorate launched track two of the Remote Identity Validation Technology Demo this week. The second track will test whether systems can compare a selfie photo to an ID and correctly determine whether the images are of the same person. Track one of the demo, which is closed for applications, has been focused on technologies to authenticate the validity of identity documents. Applications for track two are due by June 22.

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