Years flying at warp speed lands SPACECOM as fully operational on fourth anniversary

In today's Federal Newscast: Some federal correctional officers are set to lose pay bonuses in 10 days. The White House forms a task force to fight fraud agains...

  • Only 10 days remain in 2023, at which time hundreds of federal correctional officers will lose pay incentives. Those officers at Federal Correctional Institution Thomson are about to lose 25% retention-based pay bonuses. The incentive cut will take effect in the new year, and it comes after staffing levels improved at the federal prison in Illinois. But the American Federation of Government Employees is urging the Bureau of Prisons to reverse its decision and continue to offer the incentive. If not, the union said it will lead to worsening staff attrition and workplace conditions.
  • Lawmakers are pushing the Central Intelligence Agency, and other members of the intelligence community, to recruit for specific skill sets. Congress is telling spy agencies to hire more analysts with financial intelligence and emerging technology expertise. The provision in the fiscal 2024 intelligence authorization act directs the intelligence community to come up with a plan for increasing that expertise by Jan. 1, 2025. The National Security Agency and other IC agencies are eyeing big recruiting targets in the coming years, as they look to hire the next generation of intelligence officers.
  • Four years after being established, Commander of U.S. Space Command Gen. James Dickinson declared that SPACECOM has reached its full operational capability. Dickinson said the command now meets all the criteria to execute its mission and deliver capabilities required to counter threats in and from space. The criteria for being fully operational include having a skilled workforce to support the mission, building out the infrastructure and being able to set the conditions for the future fight. Since 2019, SPACECOM has been providing combatant commanders with a wide range of space capabilities needed to support their operations, including satellite communications, weather monitoring and missile warning.
  • A certain group of House and Senate lawmakers is pushing back on higher prices at the Post Office. USPS package prices are going up across the U.S. in January. But lawmakers said the price hikes are disproportionately higher for Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories than the lower 48 states. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) were the lead authors of a letter, along with eight House members, calling on the Postal Service’s regulator to reject the rate hike. Lawmakers said USPS is looking to set prices for Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, and USPS Ground Advantage far higher than the rate of inflation.
  • Veterans are a growing target for fraudsters, so the White House is assembling a team to deal with it. The Biden administration held its first meeting of its Veteran Scam and Fraud Evasion Task Force. It includes leaders from the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and the IRS. The task force is working on a fraud prevention toolkit and a one-stop shop for veterans to seek help. The Federal Trade Commission received 163,000 fraud reports from veterans between 2015 and 2019.
  • Martin O’Malley has been officially sworn in as commissioner of the Social Security Administration. The former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor will be the first permanent leader of the agency in two-and-a-half years. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) conducted the swearing-in ceremony for O’Malley on Wednesday. The official move follows the Senate confirmation of O'Malley to the position on Monday, in a vote of 50-11. O'Malley's term as commissioner will expire in January 2025.
    (Martin J. O’Malley sworn in as commissioner of SSA - Social Security Administration)
  • The Biden Administration is pressing ahead with new rules to require project labor agreements (PLA) on large federal construction contracts. The Office of Management and Budget issued guidance this week telling agencies those agreements are now mostly mandatory for contracts worth $35 million or more. A final rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation is scheduled for publication later this week. The White House argues the new rules will bring “stability” to construction projects. Some contractors argue the changes will drive up construction costs and discourage firms from bidding on federal projects. The new rules do allow federal contracting officers to waive the PLA requirement under some circumstances.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is seeking feedback on its major technology security initiative. CISA this week issued a request for information on its “secure-by-design” white paper. The agency wants comments on how tech manufacturers can incorporate security early in the software development cycle, as well as the financial costs of adopting secure-by-design principles. The RFI also seeks feedback on barriers to eliminating recurring software bugs and how security can become a bigger focus in computer science education. The deadline to comment is February 20, 2024.
  • A new tool will allow Air Force leaders to move away from Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoints when making investment decisions. The Air Force is launching the first iteration of a decision advantage tool that will change the way financial decisions are made within the service. The tool will help senior leaders to understand the direct costs of a particular decision and the impact that decision could have on an entire program. If senior leaders decide to add an aircraft, the new platform will highlight both the price tag of the plane and what it would mean for aircraft availability or personnel. The first version of the tool is scheduled to come out next month.

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