The possibility of repealing Social Security's so-called 'evil twins" is closer than ever to the finish line. There are now 303 House cosponsors on the Social Security Fairness Act. It is the second highest number of cosponsors on any pending bill in all of Congress. If enacted, the legislation would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). The two provisions reduce, and in some cases eliminate, Social Security benefits for certain federal retirees. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) is urging the House Ways and Means committee to mark up the bill and advance it to the full House for a floor vote.
More Thrift Savings Plan participants than ever are getting full matching contributions from the government. About 87% of the seven million total TSP participants are contributing at least 5% of their paychecks to their retirement accounts. That means they are also receiving a full 5% match from their employing agency. The better contribution rates are a record high for the TSP. The improvements show progress in the strategic goals for the TSP board. For the past couple of years, the board has been aiming to provide more information to participants to help them make the most informed decisions possible about their retirement savings.
The Government Accountability Office has determined that agencies need better data to help speed up some important security-clearance decisions. Employees who want to quickly take their security clearance to another federal agency or contractor position face a lot of challenges. That is because security clearance IT systems frequently contain incomplete or inaccurate information and are not always available when needed. GAO also said agencies don’t do a good job communicating with each other and with contractors when a security clearance reciprocity decision is delayed. GAO recommended Defense and intelligence agencies to improve the data and IT systems that underpin the clearance process.
Short on funding, the Labor Department’s watchdog office is offering buyouts and early retirements to reduce its workforce, as the workload remains challenging. Criminal investigators, auditors, analysts and administrative staff at the department’s inspector general office are eligible to take the incentives, as the office looks to shrink its workforce by about 20% by the end of the fiscal year. The IG’s office is dealing with budget problems, because COVID-19 emergency funding is running out. Congress also gave the watchdog about half the annual budget it asked for last year. The watchdog office is raising concerns it won’t have enough resources to go through 166,000 open unemployment insurance fraud complaints before time runs out. The statue of limitations of some of these pandemic-era cases expires next year.
The Defense Department inspector general said the Pentagon continues to spend too much money on noncompliant and outdated financial systems. DoD could potentially save up to $728 million if it gets rid of old systems that it has no plans to modernize, the IG said. In addition, DoD doesn’t plan to retire several systems that will never be compliant with the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act (FFMIA) until fiscal 2031. The DoD inspector general recommended developing a strategy to ensure that all financial management systems either become FFMIA compliant or are replaced promptly. The IG also suggested obtaining justifications from systems owners on why they continue to use a particular system in the Defense Business System Audit Remediation Plan.
Some new software is expected to simplify the decorations approval process for Airmen and Guardians. The Air Force’s new app, called "myDecs Reimagined," will be a one-stop shop for processing the award nominations for service members. It will give Airmen and Guardians a dashboard to track decorations. The app will allow decorations to be edited until they are signed and service members will be able to add notes and comments. Streamlining the decorations approval process is part of a larger initiative to simplify over 100 software applications within the service's human resources systems.
Federal agencies would have 90 days to respond to the Federal Protective Service’s facility security recommendations, under new legislation in the Senate. Leaders on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee introduced the Improving Federal Building Security Act this week. The bill would also require agencies to provide an explanation when they reject security recommendations. The Government Accountability Office previously found agencies ignored 57% of the facility security recommendations issued by the FPS between 2017 and 2021.
The State Department is trying to get more mid-career professionals to join the Foreign Service. That is the focus of its new Lateral Entry Pilot Program, which employs a new approach for the department to fill in some of its workforce gaps. The Foreign Service is looking to bring in experts in a number of fields, including cyberspace and emerging technology, climate science, and global health. Congress is requiring the department to run the pilot program as part of legislation it passed in 2017.