Could we soon see a federal Department of Water?

In today's Federal Newscast, presidential advisors are calling for the creation of a “Department of Water” to confront what they say are rapidly evolving wa...

  • Presidential advisors are calling for the creation of a “Department of Water” to confront what they say are rapidly evolving water crises. The National Infrastructure Advisory Council on Monday approved new recommendations aimed at shoring up U.S. water infrastructure. Their report addresses challenges ranging from water shortages and quality issues, to climate change and workforce. The council is calling for the development of a national water strategy, to be led by the new agency or a similar Cabinet-level entity.
  • The Postal Service sees its net losses deepening this fiscal year. USPS reports a $549 million net loss for July. So far this fiscal year, USPS is looking at a nearly $5.8 billion net loss. The agency projected a $3.3 billion net loss for this point in the fiscal year. USPS has seen less than a half-percentage point increase in its revenue, compared to the same point last year, despite the agency approving rate increases in July and January. USPS no longer expects to break even in fiscal 2023, as it previously expected in its 10-year reform plan that began more than two years ago.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is reinstating a health care worker it fired, and giving her more than two years of back pay. A former VA nursing assistant in Long Beach, California will soon have her old job back, after a third-party arbitrator finds the department improperly fired her. The arbitrator said the employee followed procedures when she went on medical leave, but the VA marked as absent without leave, and used that as grounds for her removal. The arbitrator found the VA lacked evidence for the employee’s removal and is awarding her 2.5 years worth of back pay. The American Federation of Government Employees represented the employee.
  • The Veterans Affairs Department is taking a second look at a contract award that had more than $100 million spread between the two competitors. The two bidders seeking to provide VA with file-to-file conversion services were $158 million apart in price. The losing bidder, GovCIO, called foul filing a protest before the Government Accountability Office. GovCIO said not only would VA pay a premium for General Dynamics IT to scan documents into searchable PDFs, but VA also failed to evaluate their bid properly. Now VA is taking corrective action by reevaluating proposals of this $400 million contract and making a new decision. GAO dismissed the protest with VA's plan to take corrective action.
    (VA to take corrective action on bid protest - Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • Existing small business multiple award contracts, including popular governmentwide acquisition contracts, are feeling the effects of the District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee's ruling about the 8(a) program. The General Services Administration said for any 8(a) sole source contract awarded after July 19, and any new directed task orders under 8(a) STARS III or similar multiple award contract, the vendor will need to have an affirmative finding of social disadvantage. GSA said in an acquisition alert that competitive awards under GWACS or MACS, however, will not require an affirmative finding.
  • Federal employees and managers have more opportunities coming up to learn strategies for working in a hybrid environment. The Office of Personnel Management has announced three free training sessions for feds in the coming months. They'll take place in Baltimore, Boston and Seattle, all in person. The trainings cover best practices for employee engagement, productivity and more, among a workforce that's operating both in person and virtually.
    (Thriving in a hybrid environment - Office of Personnel Management)
  • High-earning Thrift Savings Plan participants have a little more time to make pre-tax catch-up contributions. The IRS is delaying implementation of changes coming from the SECURE 2.0 Act. Congress passed the legislation last December, aiming to make it easier for TSP participants, and those in other 401(k) programs, to save for retirement. Currently, TSP participants ages 50 and older, regardless of income, can make catch-up contributions $7,500 above the annual limit, either pre- or post-tax. But one provision of SECURE 2.0 intends to limit those who earn more than $145,000 annually to only Roth, or after-tax, catch-up contributions. After warnings from many employers and organizations about the short turnaround, the IRS announced a two-year transition period for implementation. The change from SECURE 2.0, originally planned for 2024, now will not take effect until 2026.
  • Service members have an opportunity to let Pentagon leaders know about their experiences with sexual assault, sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the military. The Defense Department launched its bi-annual workplace and gender relations survey at the end of July. It will get feedback from about one million randomly selected service members. That’s roughly half of the combined active-duty and reserve force. The survey helps DoD leaders improve and develop policies and programs to support service members. The survey is voluntary and DoD will publish the results next spring.
  • The Defense Department’s new technology initiative to compete with China will involve small, relatively cheap unmanned systems produced in under two years. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks outlined the plan for the program Monday. She said the unmanned systems will depend on cutting edge technology that makes the drones easily replaceable. Hicks, along with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will supervise the program. It will work with the DoD’s chief technology officers and the Defense Innovation Unit to design and produce new systems.
  • Customs and Border Protection looks to technology to help take care of its workforce. CBP is looking for a vendor to build a mobile application that provides mental health resources to its 64,000 employees. The agency released a request for proposals earlier this month for the Workforce Care Technology Mobile Application. The agency said its employees often struggle to access mental wellbeing resources. The mobile app will be available to CBP employees and their families. The deadline for initial proposals is Aug. 30.

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