The Office of Management and Budget is sounding the alarm bells over the House fiscal 2024 appropriations bills. OMB Director Shalanda Young sent an open letter to lawmakers and other interested parties saying the current House spending bills would violate the bipartisan budget agreement and bring extreme cuts to civilian agencies. In fact, Young said the bills would, "devastate the American people." OMB said the current Commerce, Justice and Science bill would eliminate more than 1,800 FBI personnel and 400 positions at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Additionally, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill would reduce the National Institutes of Health's budget by almost $4 billion and eliminate funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Here is one more reason to expect a continuing resolution for the start of fiscal year 2024: the Biden administration is explicitly threatening to veto the House’s version of next year’s Defense appropriations bill. The House bill includes several major provisions the White House objects to. Among them – a $1 billion cut to civilian employee salaries, and an end to DoD’s policy of funding a servicemember's out-of-state travel for an abortion. The House bill also includes massive pay raises for enlisted servicemembers. The White House said it appreciates that idea, but the House’s new pay rates would cost $4.4 billion next year, and the bill only pays for about $800 million of that.
According to a new report from the Defense Department Inspector General's office, 20% of victims of sexual assault do not get correctly triaged in the military health care system. The report found that victims were frequently triaged at a lower priority level than required by federal and Defense Department policies. Victims were also not consistently offered sexual assault forensic examinations that would collect evidence of rape. And IG's office found DoD failed to offer specific guidance on triage levels for sexual assault victims.
The Department of Health and Human Services is taking steps to remove accessibility-based discrimination. HHS has proposed a rule to better help those with disabilities access health care benefits and social services. The agency's new proposal aims to clarify and expand how HHS implements the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Specifically, HHS is looking to add more website accessibility options and create standards for accessible medical equipment. They are also planning to add accessibility requirements for child welfare programs, among several other changes.
General Services Administration is facing the first protest of its new professional services governmentwide contract. The OASIS+ professional services contract could not avoid the protest bug after all. Boston Consulting Group Federal (BCG Federal) filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office on Aug. 28, over the terms of the solicitation released last month. BCG Federal said GSA's requirements are not consistent with the Federal Acquisition Regulations and unduly restrict competition. Specifically, BCG Federal said GSA should not be asking vendors to provide a cost breakdown of their fixed prices, such as direct labor rates, fringe benefits and profit. GSA said the protest will not delay the due date for proposals of Sept. 22.
The Army is looking to become a leader in the use of open-source intelligence, by making open-source intelligence (OSINT), a top priority. The service finalized a first-of-its-kind OSINT strategy earlier this year, with the goal of building a professionalized OSINT workforce throughout the Army. Intelligence agencies have grappled with how to take better advantage of publicly available data. The Army has a new four-week OSINT training course and it plans to make its training more widely available to intelligence agencies starting next year.
The Postal Service’s regulator is getting a bigger budget – just not as big of an increase as it expected. The USPS Board of Governors is approving a more than $21 million budget for the Postal Regulatory Commission next fiscal year, which is about a 28% spending increase meant to help the commission oversee sweeping USPS network changes. The commission used to ask Congress for funding, but the Postal Service Reform Act signed into law last year means the commission now gets its budget straight from USPS. Lawmakers made this change to allow the commission to keep operating even in the event of the government shutdown.
A federal cybersecurity contractor, founded by former national security officials, is exploring bankruptcy. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this month, the cyber firm IronNet also said it will furlough most of its employees and may lose customers as a result. The company was founded by former National Security Agency director and retired Army general Keith Alexander, along with other former defense and intelligence officials. Alexander stepped down as IronNet’s chief executive earlier this year.
President Joe Biden has announced his intention to nominate Colleen Duffy Kiko to another five-year term as a member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), on which she has sat since December 2017. Kiko has previously served as the authority's chairman and general counsel. The FLRA resolves disputes between federal unions and management, and establishes public sector policies on labor-management relations.
The IRS plans to cut down on paper and bring more of its work into the digital age. But the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said the agency lacks a comprehensive strategy to accept all its incoming forms electronically. The Office of Management and Budget is requiring all federal agencies switch to electronic recordkeeping by June 2024. The IRS stores nearly six million feet of paper records and spends about $35 million storing them.
President Joe Biden said if the House version of the 2024 Department of Defense Appropriations Act passes, he will veto it. A Statement of Administration Policy released Monday by the Office of Management and Budget objects to House Appropriations Committee efforts to cut funding to the Defense civilian workforce and DoD's clean-energy initiatives. The administration said a proposed $1 billion cut would result in an untenable downsizing and suppression of the civilian workforce. The White House also said it strongly opposes making a significant, permanent change to the basic pay schedule for E-1 to E-6, junior enlisted soldiers.