Is that recording of your agency’s latest Zoom meeting a federal record? The National Archives said it probably is in many cases. A draft bulletin released by the National Archives and Records Administration this week said agencies must incorporate records management practices into their use of collaboration platforms. The use of those tools, like Zoom, Webex, Slack and Discord, has become a fixture in government over the last few years. The draft NARA bulletin said agencies should work with platform providers to ensure records can be exported with required metadata. And while they do not have to record every video meeting, agencies should at least document any substantive conversations the same way they would for an in-person meeting.
With hurricane season underway, the Office of Personnel Management has a few reminders for agencies about leave for federal employees. When emergencies arise, OPM said agencies should let employees use something called "weather and safety leave." Agencies can give employees this type of time off in the case that they cannot safely travel to or perform work at their normal worksite. Telework is an important tool for agencies in these types of emergencies, OPM said. Agencies can also authorize travel payments in the case that an employee needs to evacuate an area due to safety concerns. And another flexibility lets federal employees offer unused time off to other feds adversely affected by a natural disaster or other emergency. OPM issued the reminder about weather and safety leave after the impacts from Typhoon Mawar.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, is looking to eliminate law enforcement personnel at several federal agencies. Higgins has introduced the "No Funds for Armed Regulators Act," which would defund armed federal regulatory enforcement officers at the IRS, the Labor Department and the EPA. Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, recently introduced a similar bill that would prohibit the IRS from purchasing firearms for its agents.
Five agencies have won extra funding for IT modernization. The Technology Modernization Fund board awarded more than $50 million to five agencies to accelerate the move to digital services, improve customer experience and enhance cybersecurity. The National Transportation Safety Board, the Bureau of Land Management and EPA each won their first TMF awards — NTSB and BLM for digital services improvements and EPA for cybersecurity. The departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor were repeat winners of extra funding — VA for customer experience and Labor for zero trust. The TMF board has invested $750 million in 45 projects since 2018.
The Office of Personnel Management is taking its first step to identify artificial intelligence skills for federal employees. OPM, in a governmentwide memo to chief human capital officers, is outlining more than 50 competencies agencies should consider when hiring staff into AI-related positions. The memo specifies technical skills like data analysis and communicating an AI’s tool findings to agency leadership. All of this is required under the 2020 AI in Government Act. OPM’s memo is the first step to potentially creating a new federal job series for AI experts or updating an existing job series to include AI professionals.
The Defense Department could get an office of academic engagement for its cyber workforce. The House version of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision for the office. It would provide a pathway for hiring and retaining more cyber workers in the future by partnering with both secondary and post-secondary schools. DoD currently has about 30,000 unfilled positions for cyber specialists, but has a new strategy for developing the workforce that includes training and developing new talent in addition to a push to hire more cyber workers.
Airmen and Guardians transitioning to civilian life will now have an opportunity to intern as Air Force junior ROTC instructors. The initiative will be organized by the Defense Department's SkillBridge Program, which helps separating and retiring service members get internships with industry partners. The teaching internships will be available at over 800 high school junior AFROTC programs worldwide. The interns will partner with experienced instructors who train high school-aged cadets in military skills. The service members will work in the assigned school for two to three months.
The retirement-claims backlog at the Office of Personnel Management has hit its lowest point in six years. To finish out the month of June, OPM had about 16,300 retirement cases in its inventory. This time last year, OPM had almost double that number in its retirement backlog. Still, the current claims inventory is more than 3,000 cases above the agency’s steady state goal of 13,000. It currently takes OPM 74 days, on average, to process a retirement claim.
Is there a light at the end of the First Source 3 contract award tunnel? The Government Accountability Office may just have cracked it open with its denial of one of the final two protests of the Department of Homeland Security's small business IT products contract. GAO said DHS's decision to eliminate from competition Better Direct, a HUBZone and service-disabled veteran-owned firm, was reasonable. GAO has until July 19 to decide the remaining protest. Then, DHS may just be cleared to make awards under the $10 billion FirstSource 3 vehicle, which has been in the works since April 2021.
Agencies have a new spot to post job openings for STEM and national security positions. Two new dashboards on USA JOBS aim to let agencies streamline the search process for potential candidates. The Office of Personnel Management has also recently created portals on USA JOBS for tech positions and federal interns. The goal is to make it easier to connect agencies with a qualified pool of applicants, and expand pathways for federal recruitment.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation said it is working hard to keep its legacy systems up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity patches. A recent audit by the EPA Inspector General found more than 20,000 critical vulnerabilities in the office’s environmental and radiation data systems. In its response, the EPA office noted that many of its technologies are not updated by the manufacturers, and therefore applying many patches could potentially break the legacy systems. But the office says it is adding two new cybersecurity positions to help address the security issues, while also replacing outdated servers and other hardware with more secure technologies.