Government shutdown can kicked down the road, again

  • It's not a snow day in the DMV today, but federal agencies in the Washington, D.C.-area are open under what the Office of Personnel Management calls a "two-hour delayed arrival." OPM also said that feds have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Emergency employees, though, are expected to report to work on time.
  • A government shutdown has been averted and Congress has another six weeks to get fiscal 2024 funding across the finish line. House and Senate lawmakers passed the third continuing resolution of fiscal 2024, keeping some agencies open through March 1 and others through March 8. The House approved the CR by a vote of 314 to 108, while the Senate passed the bill 77 to 18. The second CR was scheduled to expire today at midnight. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill later today.
  • Pressure is mounting in Congress over federal telework, this time for the Interior Department. House Republicans on the Natural Resources committee are blaming telework for what they say are worsening services at Interior. But Mark Green, the department's top workforce official, defended the current stance on telework. "For the department to remain competitive for the talent we need in the future, we believe it's essential that we continue to offer workplace flexibilities such as telework and remote work," he said. Still, the department is following the Biden administration's lead and pushing forward with a partial return to the office for many employees. Starting in February, the department plans to bring teleworking feds back to the office for at least half of their work hours.
  • More oversight is coming to make sure agencies are using secure cloud services. The General Services Administration has begun implementing a process to make sure agencies are using only cloud services that have been through the FedRAMP process. A new report by the Government Accountability Office detailed some of the specific steps, including the FedRAMP program management office monitoring and reporting on each agency’s compliance with FedRAMP. The process also requires agencies to work with the PMO to begin the authorization process for any non-FedRAMP authorized cloud services they are using. In a new report, GAO found that while use of FedRAMP approved cloud services has increased since 2019, nine agencies, including GSA and the departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs, reported implementing non-approved cloud services.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs’ tech shop is making it easier for veterans to keep track of their health care and benefits online. VA’s Office of Information and Technology is planning a refresh of the My HealtheVet portal that veterans use to schedule VA medical appointments and refill prescriptions. It is also adding new features to the VA’s health care and benefits mobile app. The update will allow veterans to see lab results on the go and make it easier for veterans to check into medical appointments using their smartphones. Most months of the year, the VA gets more online traffic from smartphones than from computers.
  • The Pentagon’s space policy office is crafting its first commercial space integration strategy. The Space Force is also working on its own commercial strategy. Defense Department Assistant Secretary for Space Policy John Plumb said that DoD and Space Force leaders are working closely on the strategies and that the two documents will go hand in hand. Plumb said that while their strategy is more strategic and focused on the entire department, the Space Force’s strategy will focus on acquisition. Senior officials are still reviewing both strategies, but Plumb said they expect them to be released in the near future.
  • President Biden will appoint Doreen Greenwald, leader of the National Treasury Employees Union, as the newest member of the Federal Salary Council. The council is composed of several federal pay experts and union leaders, and makes recommendations on how to improve the government's pay systems. In her new role, Greenwald said she plans to push for policies that will narrow the pay gap between the federal and private sectors. On average, federal salaries are currently about 28% behind those in the private sector.
  • A board to fast-track the sale of underutilized federal properties is one step closer to gaining a new member. President Joe Biden intends to appoint Dan Mathews, former commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, to serve on the Public Buildings Reform Board. The General Services Administration, as of last September, sold 10 of 12 buildings the board recommended for disposal. GSA made $194 million from the sale of those buildings.
  • Advanced Technology International will serve as the consortium manager for the Defense Industrial Base Consortium. The Defense Department awarded an other transaction agreement to the non-profit to accelerate access to commercial technologies. Laura Taylor-Kale, assistant secretary of Defense for industrial base policy, said that the effort will help the execution of the first-ever National Defense Industrial Strategy and Defense Production Act funding. It will also address defense supply chain challenges and workforce shortages. The other transaction agreement will have a 10-year period of performance with no funding ceiling. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment will oversee the agreement.

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