Money for DoD’s Armed Forces Retirement Homes running out, GAO says

In today's Federal Newscast: GAO looks to improve agency adoption of agile and iterative software development. The U.S. Space Force has officially activated its...

  • For any fed out there who has procrastinated, there are just hours left to make changes to your health care options next year. Midnight tonight is the deadline for federal employees and annuitants to take advantage of Open Season. And there are plenty of reasons enrollees in the Federal Health Benefits Program should do so. New coverages, increasing premiums and changes to Medicare are just a few examples. For feds who don't take any action, their current health, dental and vision options will automatically roll over into 2024. But those with a flexible spending account will have to re-enroll if they want to continue it.
  • Retirement claims in the Office of Personnel Management's backlog are at a six-year low. The roughly 16,000 pending retirement applications for federal employees have decreased by about 850 claims since October. But that is still close to 3,000 claims above OPM's goal of 13,000 in the can at any given time. The six-year low comes ahead of an expected influx of retirement applications over the next month or so.
  • There are more delays for the multibillion-dollar overhaul of the Pentagon’s household goods moving system. The Defense Department had planned to start implementing its new Global Household Goods contract this year. But the transition is now on hold indefinitely because of new problems integrating DoD’s IT systems with the contract’s prime vendor: HomeSafe. Officials with U.S. Transportation Command said they plan more IT testing early next year, but they won’t know how big the problems are until those tests are finished.
  • The Government Accountability Office is taking on the challenge of improving agency adoption of agile and iterative software development. Agencies are getting some additional advice to improve the management and implementation of IT programs. GAO's new agile assessment framework is part of how it wants to help move federal IT management off its High-Risk List. GAO put federal IT management on the list in 2014. The nearly 300-page document includes eight chapters, each with its own best practices checklist. GAO also highlighted federal use cases from agencies including the Census Bureau, the General Services Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. GAO developed the guide by interviewing dozens of experts in the private and public sectors under its agile working group.
  • The U.S. Space Force has officially activated its component for Europe and Africa, the fourth Space Force component within several U.S. military regional commands, including U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Forces Korea. It will have about 30 service members on staff and U.S. Space Force Col. Max Lantz will be its first commander. The new service component command will support U.S. European Command’s growing need for space-based capabilities including satellite navigation, communications and integration with NATO Allies and partners.
  • The Defense Department's Armed Forces Retirement Homes face some serious financial challenges. The Government Accountability Office projects the trust fund that finances the two facilities in Washington, D.C. and Gulfport, Mississippi, will be completely empty in the next 20 years. GAO said that will be the case even if DoD and Congress adopt management’s proposals to increase revenue into the trust fund. One reason for the financial problems is declining occupancy. The number of residents has fallen by 40% in just the last 8 years. GAO said the homes’ management also needs stronger financial oversight.
  • Another hackathon is coming to all American citizens early next year. The Defense Department is hosting a multi-classification hackathon from February 5 to February 9 in Oahu, Hawaii. The event is looking to produce solutions specific to Indo-Pacific challenges. Federal employees and federal contractors are encouraged to submit potential use-cases within the application process. Participants are not required to have a security clearance and teams are able to select their own project. Prior hackathons produced solutions for major Defense Department programs in areas including space launch and large language models.
  • Agencies may have to apply the small business "rule of two" to most multiple award contracts under a new bill. Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the Small Business Committee, wants to codify the use of this rule to give small businesses more procurement opportunities. The "rule of two" requires agencies to set-aside a contract if there is a reasonable expectation, based on market research, that two or more small businesses could perform the work. But agencies have not consistently applied this rule through the regulatory process. The bill would not apply to the General Services Administration's schedules program, however. There's no Senate companion bill.
  • A new capability will improve the U.S. military’s situational awareness of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Defense Information Systems Agency’s new tool will bring a number of different information feeds into a single visual display, allowing the warfighters to make decisions and act more quickly. The first iteration of the tool is primarily focused on providing a common operating picture, while the next iteration will zero in on planning and decision support. Understanding and maintaining situational awareness of the electromagnetic spectrum is crucial for military commanders, as the spectrum has become congested and extremely contested.

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