A new bill in the Senate is looking to address staffing shortages at airports and other ports of entry. Bipartisan legislation would require Customs and Border Protection to hire at least 600 additional officers per year until the agency’s staffing needs are met. The Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act is being spearheaded by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich). The bill would authorize CBP to hire additional mission support staff and technicians to perform non-law enforcement functions at the agency. And the bill would require CBP to report on any infrastructure needed at ports of entry to better detect drugs.
Protests force the National Institutes of Health IT Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) to extend the CIO-SP3 vehicle another six months. Agencies now have until October 29 to place orders against the CIO-SP3 unrestricted and small business governmentwide acquisition contracts. NITAAC is facing 119 protests of the follow-on contract, CIO-SP4, and that is requiring it to extend the current GWAC by six months. NITAAC hoped to get CIO-SP4 in place this summer, but now has extended CIO-SP3 almost 18 months beyond its initial end date. The protests come after NITAAC made more than 400 awards under CIO-SP4 on March 31. The Government Accountability Office has until mid-July to early August to decide on the protests.
The Marine Corps and the intelligence community are mourning the death of Vincent Stewart. The recently-retired lieutenant general passed away unexpectedly on Friday at the age of 64. Stewart immigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica when he was 13, and eventually became the first Marine and the first Black American to serve as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. His last position, before he retired in 2019, was the deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command. The Intelligence and National Security Alliance announced earlier this year that he was the recipient of this year’s annual William Baker Award, which recognizes extraordinary contributions to U.S. intelligence and national security affairs.
Congress is raising concerns about a conflict of interest in the talent acquisition space. House Oversight Committee leaders say the Office of Personnel Management has an unfair market advantage when it comes to federal hiring systems. Lawmakers are concerned about the agency’s dual role as both regulator and provider of talent acquisition systems. OPM can also use quicker interagency agreements for its hiring program, called USA Staffing. But other vendors in the space must still complete the lengthy federal acquisition process. After a bipartisan push from the Oversight Committee, the Government Accountability Office said it will release a report on USA Staffing later this year.
IRS modernization funds are on the chopping block, as part of House Republicans’ plan to raise the debt ceiling. The IRS is warning House lawmakers that plans to eliminate nearly $80 billion in funding over the next decade would stall plans to improve taxpayer services. The House last week passed the Limit, Save, Grow Act, which would raise the debt limit. But it would also eliminate unspent IRS funds under the Inflation Reduction Act. IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told the House Ways and Means Committee that zeroing out the agency’s funds would cut short IRS plans to rebuild its workforce and upgrade its legacy IT. “If you repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, you eviscerate our ability to fix the problems that we've had historically,” Werfel said.
Almost all of the Biden Administration’s attempts to mandate COVID vaccines have already been blocked by courts, but the White House said it will formally end all of its vaccination requirements on May 11. That is the same date the administration has already said will mark the end of the public health emergency. Even though legal challenges have kept agencies from enforcing most of the mandates, the White House argues they were largely successful: 98% of federal employees, for example, had already complied with the mandate or requested an exemption by a year and a half ago.
Virginia Army base Ft. Lee, named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, will now be known as Fort Gregg-Adams. The new name honors two pioneering black soldiers. Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg served as a logistics officer after WWII and rose through the ranks from private to three-star general. He's 94 years old and the only living person in modern Army history to have an installation named after him. Lt. Col. Charity Adams served as the first Black officer in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in WWII and led the first predominately Black WAAC unit to serve overseas.
The General Services Administration's new schedules catalog is ready for a test run. GSA kicked off a pilot of the FAS Catalog Platform (FCP), which is a web-based system to replace the schedules input program (SIP). GSA said the new catalog platform will make it easier for contractors to manage their product details. It gives vendors automated business rules, data validations and system notifications to provide near-real-time feedback on submissions. The initial test run is with contractors on the Office Supplies 4th Generation (OS4) schedule and will run through the end of the September. GSA plans to update this minimum viable product later this calendar year with new capabilities.
The Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) program to address the health and welfare of its operators and families doesn’t have a metric to measure its success. The Government Accountability Office wants the command to find ways to evaluate program effectiveness and collect more data. The program started about 10 years ago after SOCOM recognized its members faced stresses unique to special operators. The wellness program addresses both physical and mental health. The fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision for GAO to review the program and recommend a way to measure its outcomes.
The Government Accountability Office is adding new members to a task force that advises Congress on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. GAO is appointing six new members to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC). The six members will serve terms that will last through April 2026. The 2009 CHIP Reauthorization Act created the MACPAC in order to review Medicaid and CHIP access and payment policies.
For Mental Health Awareness Month, the Office of Personnel Management is offering a host of resources to federal employees. An interagency community of practice, called "Mindful Fed," offers weekly meetings to help employees create wellness goals and connect with others about good strategies for mindfulness. Agencies should also remind employees to take leave and use other workplace flexibilities, when needed, for their mental health. OPM said other resources, including a mental health pamphlet and workplace tip sheet, can additionally help feds with managing their well-being.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency makes some changes to a key security tool for agencies. CISA’s Secure Cloud Business Applications program, better known as SCuBA, published an update to the“ScubaGear” tool this week. The software helps agencies evaluate the security of their Microsoft 365 environments. The latest update fixes several bugs, provides better support for conditional access policies and also provides signed software to improve security. ScubaGear is available on GitHub and has been downloaded more than 800 times since CISA first released the tool.