The 2024 National Defense Authorization Act is one step closer to the finish line. The Senate easily passed its version 86 to 11 yesterday evening. The bill includes the 5.2% pay raise for military service members and civilians, and a new personnel system for the Space Force. The House passed its version of the NDAA on July 14 by a contentious vote of 219 to 210, mostly along party lines. The bill now goes to a House and Senate conference committee to sort out the differences between the two versions.
A customer experience initiative at the Department of Homeland Security is eyeing big changes to interactions with the public. Whether it is a Pre-Check application with the Transportation Security Administration, or a naturalization interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS wants each of its near-constant public interactions to be human-centered. Though the department's four high-impact service providers are all very different, DHS CX lead Dana Chisnell said she wants each component to focus on two key questions: “One is, what is the outcome that we want for the public? And the second one is, what’s the experience that we want them to have?” Chisnell said gathering data and making changes in response to feedback are crucial to improving overall experience.
Airport screeners and other Transportation Security Administration employees have received a historic pay boost. TSA employees reached a major milestone this month with the start of a new pay system that brings their wages in line with most other federal employees. The pay raises started hitting pay checks last weekend. Some long-time transportation security officers saw a raise as high as 31%. Officials said the new pay system is crucial to keeping airport security lines fully staffed. A 2019 study found low pay was the primary driver behind high turnover at TSA.
The General Services Administration's commercial platforms initiative is gaining steam, but still has some holes to fill. GSA saw a huge increase in spending and use of its online platform that attempts to make it easier for agencies to buy commercial products. By the end of 2022, 27 agencies spent more than $40 million through the commercial platforms initiative. That is up from six agencies in 2020 and $12 million in sales in 2021. The Government Accountability Office reported that GSA needs to improve how the initiative tracks small business sales and meets AbilityOne requirements.
A senator wants agencies to investigate Microsoft after a breach led to suspected Chinese espionage. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is calling on the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to probe the technology giant’s cybersecurity practices. This comes after reports that China-linked hackers were able to steal a Microsoft cloud security key to break into the unclassified email accounts of high-ranking U.S. officials. Wyden wants DoJ to probe whether Microsoft’s practices violate federal contracting laws, while he is asking CISA to have the Cyber Safety Review Board investigate this latest incident.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology could take even further steps to help strengthen the government's cyber workforce. The Government Accountability Office said NIST's National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education needs clearer performance measures. And NIST should also plan to collect more data to assess progress toward each performance goal. GAO said its list of recommendations would help NIST in its end goal of improving agencies' cyber workforce overall.
The Defense Health Agency needs to solve its fiscal management problems and end price gouging among its contractors. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote that in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and to the director of the DHA on Tuesday, targeting DHA's TRICARE contractors. Warren wants answers about the agency's continued failure to stop overpayments and excessively high prices from TRICARE vendors. A Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing Wednesday heard testimony from auditors about prices charged for health care equipment and services through the agency. TRICARE is the health care program for uniformed service members, retirees and their families around the world.
The IRS is closing a gap in audits of certain companies using funds it received from the Inflation Reduction Act. The tax agency told the Government Accountability Office that the decline in audits of so-called "non-C corporations" over recent years is due to a lack of resources. In a recent report, GAO found that of the few audits the IRS completed, 80% did not find tax noncompliance.
The Army needs to provide better oversight of the company contracted to rehabilitate and build new housing on six of its installations, according to the Government Accountability Office. The company, called Landlease, has an Army contract to renovate more than 12,000 existing homes, build over 1200 new homes, and demolish over 1,000 old homes by 2027. The GAO said the company's monthly report lacks required details, including the status of construction inspections. The watchdog agency wants the Army to improve inspection oversight and enforce updated financial projection requirements to avoid cost overruns.
The White House is rejecting the Senate's desire to bring back the Chief Management Officer for the Defense Department. In its Statement of Administration Policy for the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, the White House said reestablishing the position would structurally result in the same outcomes as the CMO position that Congress eliminated in the 2021 NDAA. The administration said bringing back the CMO would require the realignment of Defense agencies and DoD field activities away from their senior proponents in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The White House said that would create gaps and ineffectiveness in the overall management and oversight of DoD.
Maj. Gen. Anthony Potts died on Tuesday in a single-engine plane crash near Havre De Grace, Maryland. The Havre De Grace version of Patch.com reported that the 59-year-old Army veteran was the only passenger in the plane that went down for unknown reasons. No one on the ground was hurt. Potts, who was in the process of retiring after 37 years of military service, most recently was the program executive officer for the Army's Command, Control, Communications-Tactical program known as C3T. He’s survived by a wife and two children.