The new year brings in new rules for the General Services Administration contracting officers. Before awarding a contract to a service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB), contracting officers at the GSA must do one of two things starting in 2024: Either they must first confirm the firm's SDVOSB status through the Small Business Administration's portal, or the contracting officer must verify through SAM.gov that the company submitted a complete SDVOSB application for certification to the SBA on or before December 31. The new requirements came from two rules the SBA finalized establishing a revamped certification process for firms to be eligible for SDVOSB set-aside or sole-source awards.
The Transportation Department sees some big cybersecurity improvements coming in the new year. DoT has deployed endpoint detection and response tools across 98% of its network. And the agency’s annual financial report shows the department will finish deploying advanced enterprise logging capabilities by the end of June. But the DoT inspector general said the department needs to make up ground in deploying multifactor authentication and other capabilities to support a zero trust security architecture. DoT plans to release an updated zero trust strategy and implementation plan by the end of 2024.
Congress wants to know how many people have access to secret information. The 2024 intelligence authorization act, passed by lawmakers last month, requires a report on the number of clearance holders in government and industry. Some lawmakers have questioned whether too many people have access to classified information, after an Air National Guardsman allegedly leaked top-secret information online. The new law also requires the director of national intelligence to establish new timeliness standards for how long it takes the government to grant clearances.
Agencies now have an easier way to recruit experts in artificial intelligence. The Office of Personnel Management has approved direct hire authority for IT specialists, computer scientists and engineers, and management and program analysts. The authority lets agencies forgo some steps of the federal recruitment process to try to speed up hiring. OPM’s authorization comes after a broad executive order on AI that President Biden signed in October. The new direct hire option aims to make it easier for agencies to comply with the order by staffing up in AI.
Heading into 2024, there was a landmark victory for federal union representation outside the continental United States. About 400 workers in Germany are now part of the American Federation of Government Employees. The new unit will cover Army and Air Force Exchange Service workers in several locations throughout that country.
The new year is bringing a host of enhanced financial readiness resources to Army soldiers. In an effort to promote financial well-being among its ranks, the Army is offering a wide range of services, including free financial counseling and personal financial management courses. The service is also encouraging its soldiers to take advantage of services such as "meals in minutes" classes that teach how to prepare healthy meals affordably. Going into the new year, the Army plans to further expand these programs, as well as improve its outreach programs to ensure service members and their families are aware of the services available to them.
The IRS is planning a new, and fourth, pilot for the 2024 tax filing season around the scanning of paper forms. The tax agency told its inspector general the Modernized Paper Processing System will combine artificial intelligence and machine learning with existing service center recognition image processing system technology. This pilot will scan tax returns directly into the IRS tax-processing system, instead of shipping the paper forms to the contractor's site. The IRS launched three other paper form scanning pilots, two in 2021 and another in 2022. The IG recommended the IRS analyze the potential benefits, challenges and costs of each of the pilots ahead of full implementation of a form scanning technology for the 2025 filing season.
The Defense Department has until October 2025 to modernize its acquisition and requirements processes. The defense policy bill that went into law last month requires the Pentagon to revise its Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System designed to define acquisition requirements for future defense programs. The provision requires the DoD to streamline requirements documents and approval processes for programs that are below the major defense acquisition program threshold. As for the implementation of the requirements, the provision calls for a collaborative approach with industry, DoD’s science and technology labs and nontraditional defense contractors. It also requires the Pentagon to develop a career path and training for requirements managers.
The Army's Contracting Center of Excellence for Digital Capabilities wants to learn how it can effectively communicate upcoming software intensive and digital opportunities to industry. To that end, the Army Contracting Center of Excellence for Digital Capabilities released a three-question Request For Information (RFI). The COE is looking for industry feedback to determine what methods of industry engagement would be of most value and allow industry adequate time to prepare for upcoming requirements and make appropriate business decisions. Responses to the RFI are due by January 5.