Labor Department employees will soon have to come into the office more often. Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su told all currently teleworking feds they will have to report in person at least five days per two-week pay period. The department already bumped up in-office work for political appointees, managers and supervisors. Labor is one of many agencies that has announced return-to-office plans after a push from the White House earlier this year. For Labor Department employees, the change takes effect Jan. 28.
(Notice of change in DOL's telework policy for all employees - Labor Department)
House Republicans today will be questioning several agencies that they say lack transparency in their telework data. Oversight and Accountability Committee members said 11 of the 25 agencies that they asked for information did not share how many of their employees are currently teleworking. Committee members are holding a hearing today to press a few of those agencies for details on the impact of telework on productivity. The agencies testifying are the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the departments of Commerce and Health and Human Services. It is a follow-up to a hearing a couple months back that featured just a few agencies the members said made good-faith efforts to answer questions on telework data.
The IRS is building on efforts to replenish its workforce, by putting its multi-billion-dollar modernization fund to good use hiring more employees and bringing back training that was scrapped by budget cuts. That is according to IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. He told Federal News Network the agency will ramp up hiring for enforcement personnel going after tax cheats in early 2024. But, he said, strengthening the IRS is not only about the total headcount of its workforce. “I try to focus, when I think about hiring, not like how many employees are we going to hire, but are we going to achieve the mission,” Werfel said.
The Biden administration is directing new actions aimed at warding off future supply chain problems. The Department of Homeland Security is setting up a new Supply Chain Resilience Center. Its initial efforts will address threats and vulnerabilities inside U.S. ports. A DHS advisory council had recommended such a center to help address the kind of supply chain challenges that emerged during COVID-19, like computer-chip shortages and container-ship backlogs. In the next year, the new center will work with agencies, industry partners and foreign governments to run two tabletop exercises aimed at testing the “resilience of critical cross-border supply chains.”
The Social Security Administration is a step closer to having a permanent agency leader. The Senate Finance Committee favorably advanced the nomination of Martin O'Malley to be SSA Commissioner on Tuesday. President Joe Biden first nominated the former Maryland governor for the top Social Security job in July. Now, after a Senate panel vote of 17 to 10, O'Malley's nomination heads to the Senate floor for full consideration.
The State Department’s visa operation is setting new records for bringing international visitors into the U.S. The department issued more than eight million visitor visas for business and tourism in fiscal 2023. That is its highest caseload in more than eight years. The department estimates those international visitors support more than nine million American jobs and contribute $239 billion of spending to the U.S. economy. The department also issued a record 600,000 student visas, its highest level since 2017.
Facing a construction boon over the next 15 years, the Navy is trying to increase the number of workers in the Submarine Industrial Base. The Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base program is opening its talent pipeline program for the third year, in a collaboration between the Navy and industry. It comes as the Submarine Industrial Base needs to add 100,000 workers in the next 10 years.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is leading an effort to install safeguards around artificial intelligence systems. CISA and the United Kingdom’s National Cybersecurity Center have released “Guidelines for Secure AI System Development.” The guidance said AI systems are subject to novel security vulnerabilities that need to be considered alongside standard cybersecurity threats. It aims to help the people building AI-based systems make informed security decisions at every stage of the development process.
A newly introduced bill aims to have the Defense Secretary create an artificial intelligence working group that would develop and coordinate an AI initiative within the Five Eyes framework. The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance between the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada. For example, the bill orders the group to compare, test, evaluate and buy AI systems in conjunction with the Five Eyes. The group would also look at possible solutions to advance AI interoperability for sharing intelligence. Other items include creating a shared strategy and using an ethical framework.