Some civilian employees working for defense intelligence agencies are getting a big pay bump. The National Security Agency and other defense intelligence components can now offer higher pay to cyber and other technical specialists under a new compensation framework quietly approved earlier this year. Employees can make as much as $183,000 per year under the new system. The system is expected to help the NSA and other defense intelligence units compete with the private sector for technical talent.
Staffing shortages are on the rise across the Department of Veterans Affairs. Despite record growth in its health care workforce this year, the VA is seeing more shortages of specific occupations across its facilities. Every one of the 139 VA facilities surveyed by the department’s inspector general reported at least one severe occupational staffing shortage. These staffing shortages are up nearly 20% compared to last year. More than 90% of VA medical facilities reported being short on nurses. The Veterans Health Administration grew its workforce by more than 5% this year and is on track to meet its goal of hiring 52,000.
The General Services Administration is reporting that the once-troubled Login.gov platform has turned the corner. Five months after a harsh IG report on the failings of the login.gov platform, GSA said the shared-service offering has regained customer confidence. As of earlier this month, 43 federal and state agencies have adopted the platform, which GSA said is an increase of over 50% in the past year. Every user account requires the use of multi-factor authentication and GSA is adding stronger evidence-based verification techniques, including in-person identify verification at post offices around the country. GSA said over the next year, it plans to continue to improve the user experience, enhance its support of its customer agencies, and continue to invest in security and anti-fraud capabilities.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is updating its long-term vision to focus on being more proactive. A new strategic plan from the agency will, for example, place more emphasis on promising practices to prevent workplace discrimination in the first place. The agency also plans to expand the availability of intake interviews, and develop better outreach strategies to better reach underserved communities. EEOC's finalized strategic plan will last through 2026, and comes after months of collaboration with employee working groups, the agency's union and other stakeholders. EEOC said it will begin to implement the new strategic plan immediately.
Satisfaction scores are on the mend for participant interactions with the Thrift Savings Plan. About 89% of TSP participants said they are satisfied with the TSP, according to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. The percent is a new high for TSP after a major system update last summer. TSP participants' use of new digital features is also climbing. Downloads of the TSP mobile app doubled in just the last month, and participants' use of the TSP's online chat bot increased 14% between June and July.
(Monthly board meeting - Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board)
The Defense Department’s Chief Management Officer (CMO) position failed because the Pentagon’s senior leadership never wanted it. The Defense Management Institute (DMI), a DoD-affiliated nonprofit think tank, analyzed what went wrong with the position. DMI's report found the CMO never had the resources or authority to succeed. The position only lasted three years before Congress abolished it in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. DMI's report said congressional meddling contributed to its failure. On paper, the CMO was the third highest-ranking Defense official, but never had the support of other senior Defense Department leaders.
Congressional auditors are flagging cost and schedule concerns with the next-generation IT system for processing background investigations. The Government Accountability Office said the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency’s (DCSA) cost estimate for the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) system is not reliable. The Defense Department has already spent more than half a billion dollars on NBIS since 2016. And while DCSA has made progress in releasing some new capabilities, GAO said the program has already shifted its scheduled roll-out and is at risk of further delays.
The Defense Health Agency (DHA) does not have enough staff to run its military medical facilities, and it needs to reevaluate its management structure, according to the Government Accountability Office. GAO said DHA does not have the resources to hire the 1,400 people it says it needs. The agency is responsible for the management and administration of about 700 facilities in the United States and overseas. In the new report, GAO said DHA needs to monitor savings and establish performance goals for reform initiatives.
The Defense Department's authority to buy innovative commercial products and services in a more streamlined way is set in stone. DoD issued the final rule for using an approach called the Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) methodology. CSO acquisitions are different than typical buying approaches in that DoD competitively selects proposals through a general solicitation and a peer review of the bids. The use of a CSO authority is intended to bring new entrants into the DoD marketplace. Congress made the CSO authority permanent in the 2022 and 2023 defense authorization bills.
The clock is ticking for veterans who deployed to a combat zone, but never enrolled in VA health care. For those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zones, the Department of Veterans Affairs is offering those veterans the opportunity to enroll directly in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits under the toxic-exposure PACT Act. Veterans have until the end of the day on September 30 to take advantage of this special enrollment period. More than 344,000 veterans have enrolled in VA health care since the PACT Act was signed into law a year ago.