The same challenges in federal retirement processing have been around for years. Reliance on a paper-based system, insufficient staffing and incomplete applications. Those remain the top three barriers to getting federal employees’ retirement applications processed on time. A new report from the Office of Personnel Management's Office of Inspector General said the agency must modernize the system and address the problems that have been around for years. OPM has an IT modernization plan underway, but it will still likely take years to implement that governmentwide.
The Postal Service said some rural carriers will not receive their regular paychecks on time this week. A USPS spokesman said timekeeping errors happening at a local level are the root cause of its problems. That means about 2,200 rural carriers will not receive their paychecks this Friday. Instead, USPS is offering money orders to impacted employees as “salary advancements.” Employees who opt for the money orders will receive 65% of their gross pay. Rural carriers would pay the advance back once USPS processes their actual paychecks. USPS dealt with a similar issue in September that impacted the paychecks of some 50,000 rural carriers.
The Department of the Navy has a new cyber strategy. Officials published the short, 14-page document yesterday. It lays out seven different lines of effort the sea services will pursue: improving and supporting the cyber workforce, defending enterprise IT networks, securing critical infrastructure and weapon systems, conducting cyber operations, partnering with the Defense Industrial Base, and improving cooperation and collaboration.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is on track to eliminate the veterans records backlog by January. That is according to NARA’s latest financial and performance results, published earlier this month. The backlog at the National Personnel Records Center had built up during the pandemic. It resulted in delays for veterans who needed their records to access federal benefits. In addition to eliminating the backlog, NARA is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to make military personnel records more accessible by digitizing them.
The new research agency at the Department of Health and Human Services sees a lot of promise in generative artificial intelligence. The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), plans to use generative AI internally to advance its own operations, while also looking at how it could be applied to healthcare challenges. The agency’s mission is to support “transformative research to drive biomedical and health breakthroughs.” Susan Monarez is the director at ARPA-H. “We fully anticipate having a number of program managers who are coming in to launch really big programs in this space that will leverage generative AI to help enable capabilities across the patient, payer and provider sectors,” Monarez said during a Nov. 15 webinar hosted by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management.
Congress’ habit of kicking the can down the road with continuing resolutions is often criticized for impacting service members and civilian workers at the Defense Department and across government. For example, the lack of permanent funding stalls new programs and creates uncertainty throughout government. It can also impact the quality of life for personnel. Critics point to military barracks that are not getting renovated because money has not been appropriated.
House lawmakers want to offer more help to military spouses who might be struggling to keep their jobs. If enacted, a new bill called the READINESS Act would offer more job flexibility to spouses of both military members and Foreign Service officers. With a highly mobile lifestyle, military families often struggle with employment for their spouses. The bipartisan legislation, which was introduced yesterday, would offer potential options like temporary remote assignments or transfers to a comparable job. Over a third of former military families said difficulties with spousal employment contributed to their decision to leave the force.
(READINESS Act - Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas))
The Department of Veterans Affairs will have to step up its emergency readiness, if a bipartisan bill makes it through Congress. The Advancing VA’s Emergency Response to Crises Act would require the VA to implement an emergency communications system in its medical facilities. It would also require the VA to update Congress on the status of its regional readiness centers. Additionally, VA would have to coordinate its planning with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Senate VA Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the bill, along with Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and committee member Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
The Defense Department is going to choose which systems and programs will be fast-tracked under its Replicator program in the next few weeks. The program aims to quickly scale drones within the next two years and deploy thousands of low-cost, autonomous systems. It is designed to help deter China by using lots of small, smart and cheap platforms. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said that Replicator is the future of the department as the Pentagon works to be more agile.