Maintenance issues ground America’s 450 F-35 fighters half the time

In today's Federal Newscast: Half the time, GAO says, America's 450 F-35 fighters are grounded because of maintenance issues. GSA again extends the due date for...

  • The House may hold votes tomorrow on several of the appropriations bills Congress would need to pass in order to avert a government shutdown. Spending bills 2024, for defense, agriculture, homeland security and foreign affairs, are tentatively scheduled for House votes. But the Senate would need to approve those measures without changes to avoid a shutdown for the agencies affected by those bills, and the House strategy would leave another eight appropriations bills for other parts of the government up in the air. There is still the possibility that both chambers of Congress could pass a continuing resolution that funds the entire government on a temporary basis, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy would have to bring that measure to the floor over the objections of several members of his own party. That is a step that would put his position as speaker in serious jeopardy.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has laid out its plan in case Congress triggers a government shutdown. Veterans would see little disruption at the VA during a shutdown. That is according to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, who said the department is drawing up its list of employees who would keep working during a lapse in funding. "In the case of a shutdown, there would be no impact on veteran health care. Burials would continue at VA national cemeteries. VA would continue to process and deliver benefits to veterans,” McDonough said. But, McDonough also said, a shutdown would pause VA’s veteran outreach, career counseling, and transition assistance to those leaving the military.
  • Federal internship openings may start getting a little more traction. A new "internship finder" from the Partnership for Public Service aims to connect students and other young individuals with opportunities in government. The new tool compiles openings for students and recent graduates, as well as government-sponsored academic opportunities. To create the platform, the Partnership took an inventory of all current federal internships across agencies. The effort comes alongside many internal agency efforts to boost early-career recruitment. Currently just 7% of the federal workforce is under age 30.
    (Federal internship finder - Partnership for Public Service)
  • Five years in the making, agencies have new digital services guidance. OMB's new "Delivering a Digital-First Public Experience" memo aims to drive digital modernization across government in a new way. Federal CIO Clare Martorana said the guidance is part of the administration's goal of creating a digital-by-default approach for all federal services. "This is a 10-year transformation framework. It has more than 100 actions and standards to help federal agencies design develop and deliver modern websites and digital services," Martorana said. Martorana also said the memo is a long-term roadmap to revolutionize how citizens interact with agencies.
  • The F-35 is the military’s newest fighter – but the 450 planes DoD has bought so far are grounded almost half the time because of maintenance issues. That is according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. GAO said that is partly because DoD still doesn’t have the depot maintenance infrastructure and personnel it needs to keep the fifth-generation fighters in good shape. Another big factor is the department’s reliance on the F-35’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin. GAO saids DoD still hasn’t obtained the technical data it needs to plan and conduct that maintenance.
  • President Biden has made his pick for the Air Force’s new number-two civilian leader. Melissa Dalton currently serves as the assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and homeland security affairs. If the Senate confirms her as undersecretary of the Air Force, she would replace Kristyn Jones, who has been filling the position in an acting capacity since March. Before her current role at the Pentagon, Dalton led the Cooperative Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The department of the Air Force has been without a Senate-confirmed undersecretary since March, when Gina Ortiz-Jones resigned from the position.
  • The General Services Administration is extending the due date for bids for its OASIS+ professional services governmentwide contract. Vendors bidding on the follow-on vehicle will get almost another month to finalize their proposals with the new due date now October 20. This is the second time GSA extended the due date, moving it out two weeks earlier this month. It is unclear if this decision is related to a cyber incident impacting its proposal acceptance tool, called Symphony. GSA sent vendors an email on September 20 that it learned of a possible security incident that may have exposed the proprietary data of companies.
  • After a year of work, the Chief Diversity Officers Executive Council is calling out some milestones. The council has so far created a national strategy for improving diversity. It also established several working groups for agencies to focus on diversity policy, data, and training. Leaders on the Chief Diversity Officers Executive Council said the work is far from over. They are continuing to target improvements in federal diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility that the Biden administration first laid out in 2021.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking back nearly $10 million in bonuses. The VA said those payments may have gone to more career executives than were eligible. About 97% of those retention incentives went to their intended targets. That includes more than 13,000 HR specialists, housekeeping aides, and VA police officers. The VA is asking its inspector general office to take a closer look at how this happened.
  • The State Department is looking for the next generation of IT experts. Undergraduate and graduate students have until January 16 to apply to the Foreign Affairs IT fellowship. The department offers fellows more than $40,000 which they can put toward tuition and living expenses to complete their degrees. During the two-year program, fellows complete internships in Washington D.C. and at a U.S. embassy. Fellows who complete the program receive IT jobs within the Foreign Service.

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