The Postal Service’s financial woes are deepening. USPS reports a $1.7 billion net loss for the third quarter of fiscal 2023, and expects to see a net loss for the entire fiscal year. The agency saw a nearly 6% decrease in its first-class mail volume this quarter. But it saw a 4 percent increase in first-class mail revenue, compared to the same period last year. USPS raised mail rates last month and in January. USPS package volume declined by 2.4%. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said long-overdue changes to its delivery network are key to cutting costs and improving the agency’s long-term financial health.
New House legislation is trying to address a years-long issue affecting some senior-level feds. Federal pay compression is top of mind for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). She introduced the Federal Employee Pay Compression Relief Act, which would let feds who reach a pay cap receive base and locality pay adjustments. The idea is to help bring them toward what their pay would have been without that cap. Pay compression affects those in the upper levels of the General Schedule, and exists because salaries for career feds cannot legally exceed the pay rates for political appointees at level IV on the Executive Schedule. The Senior Executives Association said the bill doesn't entirely resolve the pay issue, but it's a step in the right direction.
Federal wildland firefighters are a small step closer to securing a permanent pay raise. The Senate's Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act now has a companion bill in the House. The legislation would make a two-year temporary pay raise for the firefighters permanent. The National Federation of Federal Employees, the union representing federal firefighters, has warned Congress for months about the nearing expiration date for funding that two-year pay boost. Both House and Senate versions of the new legislation are bipartisan.
A federal union’s labor contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs gets its first update in more than a decade. VA and the American Federation of Government Employees have finalized a new labor agreement, putting an end to more than six years of stalled contract negotiations. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the new contract allows the VA to speed up the hiring process and staff up more quickly. “We’ve made hiring a priority since we got here, so we’re looking for every efficiency we can find." That’s as the agency prepares to accommodate a historic expansion of VA health care and benefits under the PACT Act. But aside from those hiring changes, the agreement is largely a rollover from the 2011 contract.
The National Treasury Employees Union officially has its new national president. Doreen Greenwald will take over the top union position. She is replacing Tony Reardon, who recently announced his retirement. Greenwald currently serves as NTEU's national executive vice president and she won the union member election unopposed. Customs and Border Protection Officer Anand Muni will also step in NTEU's second-in-command. Greenwald and Muni were both elected for four-year terms and will be sworn into office on Aug.10.
The Defense Logistics Agency has a new technology leader. Adarryl Roberts is the new chief information officer at the Defense Logistics Agency. He started in this new role earlier this month. Roberts replaces Dr. George Duchak, who had been CIO since February 2019. Duchak left DLA in February to join the private sector. Roberts has been with DLA since 2012, serving in a variety of positions. Most recently, Roberts was the director of the business systems center of excellence and program executive officer. In that dual-hatted role, he led efforts to modernize DLA applications by moving them to the cloud, including a successful transition of its ERP system.
Three associations representing small software and technology companies asked Congress for pathways to improve the way the Pentagon works with them. The Software Defense Coalition, the Alliance for Commercial Technology in Government and the National Venture Capital Association sent a letter to the leaders of the House Armed Services and the House Appropriations committees asking for specific changes to improve the acquisition process. The group wants more use of the other transaction authority, a standardized process for software acquisition and more flexibility in the Small Business Innovation Research program.
Check another long-awaited final rule off the list from the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council. Five years since issuing the notice of proposed rulemaking, agencies can finally conduct 360 degree reviews with their contractors. The council published the final rule yesterday with no changes from the 2020 propose rule. It goes into effect Sept. 22. Under the new regulation, agencies can develop voluntary feedback surveys from companies to better understand and improve their acquisition processes. The rule does prohibit contracting officers from reviewing information until after a contract is awarded, and the information shall not consider in the award decision.
The White House is bringing in a former Pentagon technology official to help lead cyber workforce efforts. Daniel Ragsdale said he’s bullish about opportunities to strengthen the federal cyber workforce. “In order to realize our goals of attracting the best and brightest, we've got to make sure that we're communicating to the American people, whether they be young, middle career, or older, that there are extraordinary opportunities in the public sector,” he said. Ragsdale will join the White House Office of the National Cyber Director next week to serve as Deputy Assistant Director for Workforce and Education. He’s is a retired Army officer who’s also served at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and in the Pentagon’s research and engineering directorate.
A major update to landmark cybersecurity standards used by organizations across the world is starting to come into focus. The National Institute of Standards and Technology released a draft version of the Cybersecurity Framework 2.0 this week. NIST is making a major revision to the framework for the first time since it was released in 2014. The draft document includes expanded guidance on how organizations can implement the cybersecurity framework. NIST is accepting comments on the draft until Nov. 4.
Airmen and Guardians have a new path to get mental health services. Through the Brandon Act, Air Force members have an additional referral process to seek care. The new set of regulations will help identify mental health concerns by making it easier to access support. It also makes it mandatory for Air Force leaders to allow access to mental health services. Service members can now request a referral for any reason, including personal distress or concerns, as well as trouble performing their duties. They don't need a reason or basis for the referral.