A vast majority of federal offices in the nation's capital are at or below 25% occupancy. Every one of 24 agencies that the Government Accountability Office surveyed has excess office space. And 17 of them are below one-quarter occupancy. Using data collected earlier this year, GAO found that a spike in telework over the last few years has worsened the space-to-occupancy ratio. But challenges with federal property holdings are a much longer term issue, having remained on GAO's High Risk List since 2003. Agencies will have to start making hard decisions soon, GAO said, as many federal leases are set to expire and pressure builds in Congress.
The Senate wants to take a hatchet to the Technology Modernization Fund's bank account. The TMF wasn't likely to get new funding in fiscal 2024, but now it may take a major cut in its current funding. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a provision in the Financial Services and General Government bill to rescind $290 million from the TMF account. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the debt ceiling spending caps forced the subcommittee to make some tough decisions. The General Services Administration, which manages the TMF, said it expected to have about $400 million in 2024. The Senate rescission would leave the TMF with about $111 million next year.
The legislation to stop the return of Schedule F is trying to take a ride on the 2024 Defense Authorization bill. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is adding the Saving the Civil Service Act as an amendment to the NDAA. Next week, the Senate is scheduled to bring the NDAA to the floor for a debate and a vote. Kaine and several other Democrats introduced the Saving the Civil Service Act in February as part of their two-year effort to make sure merit-based hiring remains the main way agencies hire federal employees. For it to become law, the Senate would still have to pass the amendment and the House would have to accept it during the NDAA conference-committee negotiations.
More return-to-office changes are here for a couple of agencies. At the Environmental Protection Agency, the Senior Executive Service, Senior-Level and Scientific and Professional employees will have to work in the office four days per two-week pay period starting in August. Other EPA managers and supervisors will have a gradual increase to three days in the office per pay period by October. And at the Agriculture Department, beginning September 10, managers and supervisors in the nation's capital will work at least 50% in person. EPA and USDA changes do not apply to bargaining-unit employees.
(Return to office changes - Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency)
The Marine Corps' Marine Innovation Unit started two years ago with big ideas and a dozen staff members. Now it is scheduled to reach full operational capacity this fall with 100 projects in different stages of production and nearly 300, mostly Marine reservists, on staff. Reservists are primarily employed in order to draw from private-sector talent and get expertise in fields like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and robotics. The unit designs products and solves problems brought to it by active duty Marine components.
President Joe Biden’s pick for second-in-command at the Department of Veterans Affairs is heading for a full Senate vote, as the Senate VA Committee advanced the nomination of VA Chief of Staff Tanya Bradsher to serve as the VA deputy secretary. Bradsher told senators she would make the VA’s rocky rollout of a new Electronic Health Record one of her top priorities. If confirmed, Bradsher would take over for former Deputy Secretary Donald Remy, who left the VA in April.
A top intelligence office is refreshing its strategy for countering foreign spies. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) is updating the National Counterintelligence Strategy. That is according to Michael Casey, the nominee to serve as director of the NCSC. Casey has served as staff director for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence since 2016. If confirmed to lead the counterintelligence center, Casey said some of his top priorities would be promoting supply-chain security and helping private companies defend against technology theft.
The Army is looking to make some headway in its use of open source intelligence. Last month, the Army published its first ever Strategy for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), according to comments delivered at this week’s Intelligence and National Security Summit. The Army’s military intelligence arm has made OSINT its top priority. The new strategy highlights the imperative to create an open source collection force. Army intelligence is building dedicated OSINT collection teams into all of its major formations, on par with traditional functions like signals intelligence.
The Biden administration is giving agencies marching orders to make its cyber policy goals a reality. The White House is outlining 65 initiatives for agencies to meet in its new implementation plan for the National Cybersecurity Strategy. The plan puts 18 agencies in charge of actions meant to shore up cyber defenses governmentwide. Acting National Cyber Director Kemba Walden said the implementation plan is a “living document” that will be updated annually to reflect the federal government's evolving response to emerging threats. "A strategy is only useful if it guides coherent action,” Walden said.
The Army published a Request For Information for building a complete archive capability within its IPPS-A production baseline. The massive Army IT program, that provides basic services for over a million soldiers, rolled out in January. The system still needs fine-tuning as problems are discovered and solved, and it moves toward a fully-integrated mesh network. The payroll and human resources system improved its data processing and archiving speed over the year, but the Army still needs to complete its archiving ability for member records and it wants to see potential products to fulfill that capability.
A bill calling on the State Department to buckle down on a major passport backlog is heading to the Senate floor. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Passport Act, as part of a larger bill to reauthorize the State Department. The bill requires the department to designate a reserve workforce it can call up during periods of high demand for passports. The bill would also require the National Passport Information Center to launch new customer support tools for individuals waiting on a passport. The bill prevents Passport Services employees from teleworking if the department exceeds an average of 12 weeks to issue passports. Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) are leading the bill.