Typhoon turns Guam into Hotel California, with no check-out until July

In today's Federal Newscast: Political campaigns prove to be a minefield for Hatch Act violators. Agencies have expanded their cyber defenses. And the Navy says...

  • The IRS is facing a $20 billion cut to its 10-year modernization fund as part of the agreement to raise the debt ceiling. The deal would freeze non-defense discretionary spending in fiscal 2024, and would cap non-defense spending growth to 1% in 2025. White House officials, though, told reporters the cuts to IRS spending will not require the IRS to scale back its short-term modernization plans and that the agency may ask Congress for more multi-year funds by the end of the decade.
  • After some adjustments to the Thrift Savings Plan’s My Account, more changes are on the horizon. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) has already made a participant's account balance more visible and expanded the navigation sidebar menu in My Account. And now there are more changes underway to expand digital options for participants. FRTIB Director of External Affairs Kim Weaver shared what they’re looking to do: “...allow people to make changes to the amount of their monthly payment online so they can log into their My Account and make the change from $400 to $500 for their monthly payment. That was something that we're hearing from participants,” Weaver said. But Weaver said there isn’t yet a timeline for when those will take effect.
  • Agencies are increasingly taking advantage of cyber tools from CISA. In 2022, 10 agencies fully implemented protective domain name system services from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Almost 50 agencies are either using endpoint detection-and-response tools from CISA or have self-attested to achieving greater than 80% coverage of known endpoints. These are two examples outlined in the latest Federal Information Security Management Act report to Congress from the Office of Management and Budget on how agencies expanded their cyber defenses in 2022. OMB said use of these and other tools under the continuous diagnostics and mitigation program helped agencies achieve an average cybersecurity progress score of 81 out of 100 among the 23 CFO Act agencies. This is the first year OMB measured the progress of agencies against new metrics that align with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cybersecurity Framework.
  • Non-defense agencies should expect a flat discretionary budget in fiscal 2024 and 2025. As part of the debt-ceiling agreement reached by the White House and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, non-defense agencies' discretionary budgets would remain roughly the same as they were in 2023. Defense agencies, however, would see an increase in discretionary spending over the next two years. In 2024, defense agencies would get about 3.5% more than in 2023 and 1% more in 2025 above the previous year's total. The White House said the flat non-defense discretionary budgets are a better deal than the Republican-led Limit, Save, and Grow Act proposal, which included a 22% cut to non-defense discretionary priorities and 10 years of spending caps.
  • A key Commerce agency could see reauthorization for the first time in decades. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has not been reauthorized since 1993. That could change if legislation introduced in the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week becomes law. The NTIA reauthorization bill would elevate the administrator of the agency to an undersecretary of Commerce position. Lawmakers also want to strengthen NTIA’s role in overseeing federal wireless spectrum issues, as well as ensure the agency has a voice on key emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
  • House lawmakers are concerned that only 10 companies are receiving half of the IT contracting dollars from the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA’s annual IT obligations increased from more than $4 billion dollars in 2017 to $6.5 billion dollars in 2021. But the number of companies receiving those awards fell by more than 50%. In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office found that about 75% of VA’s IT obligations went to 30 contractors in 2021. House VA Technology Modernization Subcommittee Chairman Matt Rosendale said the VA isn’t holding these major contractors accountable for performance. "This is why IT projects, meant to modernize how services are delivered to our veterans, stumble again and again,” Rosendale said.
  • No Navy civilians or sailors can transfer to-or-from Guam until the end of June. As a result of damage from Typhoon Mawar, the Navy is imposing a stop movement order. Anyone not yet detached from his or her current command should remain in place. Sailors currently stationed in Guam and returning from off-island travel should return to Guam as scheduled when travel is available. Guam's Governor gave an all-clear Thursday after the storm's 140-mile-an-hour winds destroyed buildings and left most of the island without power.
    (Orders cancelled for Guam - Office of the CNO)
  • Space Force wants to move away from traditional military physical fitness evaluations. To do this, it is asking guardians to volunteer for a two-year wearable device study. The new approach will focus on nutritional guidance, physical activity, sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances and behaviors, and positive social connections. The study is intended see if wearable fitness devices are an effective means of measuring physical fitness and readiness, including cardiorespiratory/muscular fitness and musculoskeletal injury risk.
  • The Office of Special Counsel has settled cases with two federal employees charged with violating the Hatch Act. That law limits federal employees' political activity. A political appointee at the Labor Department was given a 10-day suspension without pay, after expressing support for a gubernatorial candidate on a conference call, in her official capacity. And a Department of Veterans Affairs employee will receive a three-day suspension without pay, after soliciting political contributions through social media.
  • Military spouses looking to get hired by the federal government are getting answers to their questions. The Office of Personnel Management is responding to common areas of confusion for the military spouse hiring authority, created in 2021. For one, OPM said the authority only applies to spouses of current active-duty service members, spouses of disabled service members and un-remarried widows of service members killed while on active duty. OPM’s new Q-and-A, answers common questions around eligibility requirements, selection priority and options for career transition assistance plans.
  • The Department of Energy is updating its Insider Threat program after an audit found DOE had divided responsibilities for its program between multiple offices. The Government Accountability Office also found DOE needs to better define contractors’ responsibilities for securing the nuclear security enterprise from insider threats. In response to GAO’s report, DOE said its Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security was recently appointed to lead the department’s insider-threat program. That office expects to wrap up a strategic review of DOE’s insider-threat efforts by the end of June.

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