OMB tells agencies to update plans for a government shutdown

In today's Federal Newscast: USPS wanted to break even this fiscal year. Instead, it has lost nearly $7 billion. The CIO-SP4 governmentwide acquisition contract...

  • Agencies are officially preparing for a government shutdown. The Office of Management and Budget told agency leaders Friday to begin preparations by reminding them of their responsibilities to review and update orderly shutdown plans. OMB also shared a draft communication template to notify employees of the status of appropriations. The White House's meeting is required under Circular A-11, no matter the status of the appropriations bills, if a potential lapse in funding is a week away. So far 39 out of 114 agencies have updated their contingency plans in 2023.
    (Update plans for a government shutdown - OMB)
  • A looming government shutdown would take a toll on federal employees far beyond Washington, D.C. At least 2,600 civilian federal employees live in every congressional district across the country. That is according to the Congressional Research Service, which pulled data from the Census Bureau and the Office of Personnel Management. The National Treasury Employees Union, taking a closer look at that data, said the number is actually closer to 4,000. NTEU said most of its members live paycheck-to-paycheck and would have to make tough choices paying bills during a shutdown.
  • Just days away from a potential government shutdown, some feds are asking about the impact on the Thrift Savings Plan. If there is a government shutdown, the TSP would be largely unaffected, and operations continue as normal. That is because the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, the agency that runs the TSP, is not funded through congressional appropriations. However, the board does make a couple of key adjustments during shutdowns. Automatic paycheck deductions for loans are paused. And those who miss their TSP loan payments during a shutdown will not be placed on a default status. TSP participants can still send in direct loan payments if they choose to.
  • Is the CIO-SP4 governmentwide acquisition contract finally in the home stretch to award? The last protest of the CIO-SP4 GWAC has been dismissed by the Court of Federal Claims. The National Institutes of Health IT Acquisition and Assistance Center (NITAAC) told the Court of Federal Claims it would take corrective action and reevaluate the bid of the protester, Inserso. NITAAC said after its reevaluation is complete, it will make a new determination as to which offerors should advance to Phase II of the competition. Now that could lead to another round of protests, but after more than 100 complaints, CIO-SP4 is in the clear for now. A NITAAC spokesperson said it will be making awards under CIO-SP4 before the current CIO-SP3 sunsets on April 29.
    (Plaintiff's Motion of Voluntary Dismissal - Court of Federal Claims)
  • One federal executive thinks agencies should be pursuing more artificial intelligence initiatives. Agencies have used the Technology Modernization Fund to advance cybersecurity and customer experience projects and now Sheena Burrell, chief information officer at the National Archives and a member of the TMF Board, says AI should be on that list, too. “One of the things I would like to see more of is artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and machine learning. I would love to be able to see more of those types of projects that come in,” Burrell said last week at an event hosted by the Alliance for Digital Innovation. Burrell also said agencies could use generative AI in the technologies they use to interact with the public.
  • The Postal Service saw a more than 8% drop in total mail volume in August, compared to the same month last year. USPS told its regulator it saw a $6.6 billion net loss for the fiscal year, which is well above its 10-year-reform-plan projection. In that plan, USPS had a goal to break even.
    (USPS Financial Information – August 2023 - Postal Regulatory Commission )
  • The global supply chain for components that go into computers, cell phones and other devices is chock full of risks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is out with some new guidance on how organizations can address those challenges. CISA this week released a framework for a so-called Hardware Bill of Materials. The guide lays out how vendors and customers can communicate about the origins of different components, like semiconductors. In addition to hardware, the federal government is also considering how to expand the use of Software Bills of Materials.
  • The Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO) issued a request for information (RFI) seeking insights about the risks and benefits of generative AI. Task Force Lima, led by the CDAO, wants to use generative AI capabilities across the DoD to ensure the department remains at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies. The CDAO is calling on industry to answer questions about the threats and vulnerabilities within organizations who use large-language models. Responses to the RFI are due by October 5.
  • An advocacy group is raising concerns about a law that has gone six years without full implementation. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) said without final regulations on the Administrative Leave Act, suspended feds are still placed indefinitely on paid leave. The 2016 law was meant to cap the number of days that feds can spend on administrative leave. But with Office of Personnel Management regulations only partially finalized, there are still millions of dollars going toward the suspended feds’ salaries. Now PEER is petitioning OPM to finalize the Administrative Leave Act regulations and cap the leave that agencies can use. The organization said if the petition is not granted within the next two months, they plan to sue OPM.
    (Citizen petition to the Office of Personnel Management - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER))
  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office unveiled new search tools to improve the customer experience on its website. USPTO web visitors will find new filtering options, and clearer directions to IP databases for patent and trademark information. Over 1.5 million site visitors have used the new Patent Public Search tool called P-PUBS, that allows full-text searches of all U.S. patent and pre-grant publications. Later this year, customers will be able to demo and train on a new trademark search tool. USPTO is relying on feedback from customers as they implement upgrades.
    (Announcing improved search tools - Patent & Trademark Office )
  • The Air Force is experimenting with the idea of delivering electric vehicle charging “as a service.” It’s part of a partnership with the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). The Air Force said it has several vehicle charging projects underway, using an other transaction agreement DIU signed with TechFlow and Leidos. In the early stages, the Air Force and DIU are looking at the costs and benefits of different business models for vehicle charging on military bases – and comparing those against what it costs to keep gas-powered cars and trucks fueled up.

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