Telework pros and cons still unknown in the long run, GAO says

In today's Federal Newscast: The recent Chinese hack of a Microsoft vulnerability prompts DHS to step-up its analysis of all threats to cloud environments. The ...

  • Telework proponents say working from home increases productivity and work-life balance. But a new report from the Government Accountability Office said the longer term impacts of telework are still unknown. Although GAO said telework generally has a positive impact on employees, it is too soon to measure other effects, such as workforce attrition and the aforementioned productivity. The report's findings, covering the nationwide workforce, come just a week after the White House urged agencies to start "aggressively executing" return-to-office plans starting in September.
  • The Defense Department is considering significant changes to how the D.C. National Guard is structured. No decisions are final yet, but one idea on the table is to remove the D.C. Guard’s aviation units, in return for more military police. A bigger possible change has to do with who controls the National Guard. In every state, that is the governor. But since D.C. does not have a governor, the responsibility currently falls to the secretary of the Army. DoD is contemplating a change that would shift that control to U.S. Northern Command.
  • About 500 frontline employees at the Federal Housing Finance Agency have voted to unionize. The feds elected the National Treasury Employees Union as their representative, in a vote of 254-24. The new group is NTEU’s 35th federal agency/office, joining others at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. There are multiple chapters within each chapter agency, which represent employees. Incoming NTEU National President Doreen Greenwald said the priorities for the workers will be finding better work-life balance and getting adequate agency funding.
  • The DHS-sponsored Cyber Safety Review Board (CSRB) has gotten its next assignment directly from a recent cyber incident. Less than a month after Chinese hackers exploited an unpatched Microsoft cloud vulnerability, the Homeland Security Department is sending in the experts to determine just how serious the threat is to all cloud instances. The CSRB will conduct its next review on the malicious targeting of cloud-computing environments. CSRB's analysis will include both the Microsoft incident, as well as cloud-based identity and authentication infrastructure affecting other cloud services and their customers. Through this review, the CSRB will develop recommendations for cloud service providers and their customers. DHS did not offer any sort of time table for the CSRB to complete its review.
  • An interagency group is finalizing a playbook to reduce improper payments across government. Members of the Joint Financial Management and Improvement Program are planning to release a three-year payment integrity plan this fall. The goal is to drive down improper payments that surged at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies saw a decline in improper payments in fiscal 2022. Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Accounting Policy and Financial Transparency Renata Miskell said the strategy is focused in part on getting agencies better access to data to proactively stop improper payments. “It's really all about paying the right person the right amount at the right time,” Miskell said.
    (Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Accounting Policy and Financial Transparency Renata Miskell - Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department wants military and civilian employees to submit promising talent-management ideas with potential to make an impact in recruiting and retaining a diverse force. DoD is hosting a talent-management challenge between now and the end of September, and wants participants to submit ideas relating to recruiting, promotions, retention, and even so-called "wild-card topics." Finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of DoD senior leaders, who will decide if and how to use them.
  • An Air Force review of the supply chain for microelectronics found several areas where the Defense Department should focus its efforts for improved security. A panel of experts conducted a review of the office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering’s microelectronics quantifiable assurance program. It found that the trusted foundry and microelectronics quantifiable assurance approaches can mitigate risk. Trusted foundry offers protection against unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Quantifiable assurance is an emerging data-centric approach to independently assess integrity across the microelectronics development lifecycle.
  • Agencies awarding task or delivery orders worth less than $6 million, but more than the Simplified Acquisition Threshold of $250,000, could soon have to give unsuccessful vendors more information about why they lost. A new proposed rule by the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council would require agencies to provide a brief explanation, including the rationale for award and an evaluation of the significant weak or deficient factors in the offeror's offer. For awards worth more than $6 million, agencies already have to provide a postaward notification or postaward debriefing. Comments on the proposed rule are due by October 10.
  • The Postal Service is launching a new initiative to address declines in mail volume. USPS is asking its regulator to approve a discount for first class-mail and marketing mail for companies that pay the agency to deliver at least a million pieces of mail in either category. The incentive is meant to encourage large mailers to increase the amount of mail USPS delivers, after years of declines. The agency saw a nearly 6% decrease in its first-class mail volume in the third quarter of this fiscal year, compared to the same period last year. But it also reported a 4% increase in first-class mail revenue. That is because USPS raised mail rates last month, hiking the price of a first-class stamp to 66 cents. The agency is settling into a familiar routine of biannual rate increases for its monopoly mail products each January and July. If approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, USPS plans to begin registration for its bulk mail discount program in November.

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