Employees at the Social Security Administration's headquarters will soon have to work in person more often. Depending on their office, SSA staff will be expected to report on-site somewhere between two and four days a week. Newly minted SSA Commissioner Martin O'Malley made the decision yesterday afternoon, and the changes will take effect April 7. Other SSA employees, including those stationed at field offices, teleservice centers and hearing offices, will continue their current balance of in-person work and telework.
(Return-to-office announcement - SSA email)
A top Defense Department official is highlighting a growing cyber threat. Agencies have found evidence of Chinese cyber threat groups infiltrating the networks of U.S. critical infrastructure. That is according to Gen. Paul Nakasone, who briefed a small group of reporters at Fort Meade on Tuesday ahead of his retirement at the end of this week. Nakasone will appear today before the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party to discuss CCP Cyber Threats to the Homeland. He said he will highlight those threats to critical infrastructure and efforts to root them out.
(Jan. 30 media briefing with Gen. Paul Nakasone - General's briefing)
The Department of Veterans Affairs saw record hiring last year. Now it is looking to manage the size of its largest-ever health care workforce. The Veterans Health Administration far exceeded some of its hiring goals last year. That means the agency is focused on getting more out of the workforce it already has, rather than continue to grow it. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said he expects VHA to manage its headcount, as employees retire or leave the agency. But the Veterans Benefits Administration is still hiring. “We’re going to continue to hire on the VBA side, to meet the demands of this historic level of claims filed. But on VHA, it will be more targeted hiring," McDonough said.
It is only January, and Democrats are pushing for a large federal pay raise in 2025. But funding this year's pay boost is already facing challenges. The current continuing resolution is keeping agency budgets flat even as their costs go up, like paying for a 5.2% raise for employees. That is one reason why there is growing pressure on Congress to pass full-year appropriations. But House and Senate Democrats are still making the case for a hefty raise of 7.4% for feds in 2025. Federal salaries are lagging almost 28% behind the private sector, and the lawmakers say their FAIR Act would help address the pay gap, while supporting federal recruitment and retention.
A Marine Corps center is now the service’s first Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratory. It is called Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity and it will have special legislative authorities, including personnel flexibilities and discretionary funding control for its directors. The center’s acceptance to the Naval Research and Development Enterprise will position the service to better support Combined Joint All Domain Command & Control efforts and Force Design 2030. The designation will also allow the service to develop a pipeline of highly skilled professionals. There are currently 20 Science and Technology Reinvention Labs across the Defense Department, including the Air Force Research Lab and the Naval Research Lab.
The Department of Veterans Affairs got more than 46,000 homeless veterans into permanent housing last year, exceeding its goal to ensure nearly all veterans who obtain permanent housing stay in that housing. The VA also met its goal to ensure nearly all veterans who return to homelessness are rehoused or put on a pathway to receive new housing. The VA estimates the number of veterans experiencing homelessness is down more than 50% since 2010.
Navy programs using the Spectrum Relocation Fund (SRF) will need to return any remaining funds once they reach a comparable capability. A new memo from the Navy chief information officer provides additional guidance to programs impacted by spectrum repurposing activities that use SRF funding. Because of the changes to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act, some programs risk spending money past the time when they achieve a comparable capability. The memo said that Navy programs using the SRF funding should start transitioning to the Planning, Programming, Budgeting & Execution and Program Objective Memorandum process once a comparable capability is reached.
The Justice Department is taking nominations for its annual Sunshine Week Freedom of Information Act awards. The honors recognize the contributions of FOIA professionals from across government. Some of the award categories include exceptional service by a FOIA professional, outstanding contributions by a new employee, and a lifetime service award. Nominations are due to DoJ’s Office of Information Policy by February 14. Awardees will be recognized during the department’s Sunshine Week event on March 11.