Adm. Franchetti lays out plans for ‘America’s Warfighting Navy’

In today's Federal Newscast: Since June 2023, the first permanent chief human capital officer at GSA is waiting in the wings. The chief of naval operations craf...

  • The Small Business Administration has a new plan to recoup billions of dollars in COVID loans. New data and better analysis is helping the SBA reverse course and be more aggressive in collecting unpaid COVID loans for under $100,000. SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman recently told House and Senate Small Business Committee lawmakers that a December 2023 data analysis determined that referring COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Paycheck Protection Program loans valued at less than $100,000 to Treasury will be cost effective after all. SBA estimates more than $7 billion in PPP and COVID EIDL loans are in danger of default. Previously, three other SBA-led reviews found the size of the loan portfolio was too small to make it worthwhile for the government to efficiently collect the debts.
    ( - Federal News Network)
  • Classified facilities are designed to keep out prying eyes, but sometimes they are difficult to access for trusted employees, as well. Many federal secure facilities still have physical barriers that make accessing them difficult for employees with disabilities. That is according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. Agencies have retrofitted some facilities, but at others, GAO found employees still have to navigate difficult-to-use entry doors and interior workspaces, challenges with electronic door locks and intrusion detection systems, and the absence of tactile signage. GAO is recommending the director of national intelligence issue minimum accessibility specifications.
  • Calling it an "agency in crisis," the American Federation of Government Employees is calling on Congress to give the Social Security Administration $20 billion in supplemental funding. The proposed cash influx, spread over 10 years, would help the agency address major challenges in its workforce, and customer service delivery, according to the union. “Without that funding, we’re going to be in this same position, year after year, of just barely meeting the public’s needs, if at all,” Jessica LaPointe, AFGE Council 220 president, said. To improve services, LaPointe said the funding would be needed to mitigate understaffing, attrition and other workforce issues that are contributing to Social Security’s backlogs and delays.
    (Social Security supplemental funding request - AFGE email)
  • An IRS watchdog reports that the tax-collecting agency is digging out from pandemic-era backlogs. IRS is answering more calls and providing help to taxpayers at levels not seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the National Taxpayer Advocate said the agency needs to do more to beef up its workforce. The IRS spent more than four months on average to hire a new employee last year and may have lost qualified candidates in the process. The IRS hired more than 30,000 employees in fiscal 2023, but much of that hiring is meant to offset a high rate of workforce attrition in the coming years.
  • The General Services Administration will soon have a new face leading its human capital office. Arron Helm will step in as GSA’s chief human capital officer later this year. Helm will take over for Jeff Lau, who is currently serving as acting CHCO for the agency. Helm will be the first permanent leader in the position at GSA since former CHCO Traci DiMartini resigned in June 2023. Helm will transition to the CHCO role after his current position as director of HR Services is backfilled. GSA anticipates the changeover will happen sometime this spring.
    (Office of HR management leadership update - General Services Administration)
  • The Navy will focus on "warfighting, warfighters, and the foundation that supports them," according to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti, who recently assumed leadership of the service. She lays out her priorities in a new one-page document titled, “America’s Warfighting Navy.” Franchetti wants the Navy to adopt a perspective focused on warfighting and to advance the integration of the Navy and Marine Corps. She also wants to synchronize the service’s warfighting efforts with the Joint Force.
  • The Commerce Department’s top watchdog is stepping down. Inspector General Peggy Gustafson is leaving the agency after nearly 14 years on the job. Deputy IG Roderick Anderson will serve as the acting inspector general until a new one is confirmed. Gustafson wrote an email to her staff thanking them for their work to cut fraud, waste and abuse across the Commerce Department’s programs.
    (OIG email - Commerce Department)
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology wants to make sure artificial intelligence models are developed with security in mind. Next Wednesday, NIST will host a virtual workshop on a secure software development framework for generative AI. President Joe Biden’s AI executive order tasked NIST with spearheading work on security standards. During next week’s workshop, attendees will have the chance to discuss the secure development and use of large language models, dual-use foundational models, and generative AI systems.
  • Calling all federal agency cyber experts! Here is your chance to test your mettle with the best of the best. The 2024 President's Cup Cyber Competition is fast approaching and registration is now open. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is accepting teams and individuals to compete in the fifth annual competition. Team registrations, which for the first time can be cross-agency, are due by January 23. Individual registrations are due by February 6. The President's Cup Cyber Competition runs from the end of January through mid-April. Last year, the Army’s 780th Military Intelligence Brigade won the team competition for the third year in a row.
  • Unmanned systems and other emerging technologies are evolving into being an essential part of the Navy's operations. The service will align its unmanned vessel programs with the maturation of autonomy algorithms, plus basic propulsion and electrical systems that need to operate continuously for weeks without regular maintenance. Just last month, Task Force 59 carried out Digital Talon 2.0, a collaborative effort pairing manned and unmanned systems. It is the Navy's first task force driven by artificial intelligence. It is meant to serve as the foundation for unmanned vessels to be fully integrated into the fleet.

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