Military members looking to expand their families, will soon have better access to infertility treatments. The Defense Department is updating its TRICARE policy to expand coverage of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures. The update is in response to a 2023 lawsuit alleging that DoD’s policy on IVF coverage excluded unmarried and LGBTQ+ service members. The lawsuit is also filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has a similarly limited policy on IVF coverage. But unlike DoD, the VA has not yet announced any policy changes. Sonia Ossorio, executive director of NOW-NYC, the organization that filed the lawsuits, called the update from the DoD a "big win." Ossorio added, "But we’re only halfway there. We need the VA to recognize this policy and do the same thing that the Department of Defense has done.”
Senators are pressing for barcodes on tax returns, so the IRS can process them faster. Some taxpayers prepare their tax returns electronically, but chose to print them out and mail them to the IRS, rather than submit it online. That creates more work for IRS employees and leads to delayed refunds. But Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) are introducing a bill that would require all returns prepared electronically and filed on paper, to include a scannable 2-D barcode. Several government watchdogs contend the barcodes would help the IRS reduce its paper-based workload.
The Defense Intelligence Agency is taking steps to make sure the government’s top-secret network is secure from cyber threats. DIA is proactively probing the cyber defenses of agencies that connect to the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System (JWICS). DIA’s new JWICS cyber inspection program checks things like how user accounts are managed and whether agencies are patching known vulnerabilities. It also checks whether agencies have insider threat monitoring and response capabilities in place. DIA has conducted several dozen such inspections over the past year.
The National Institutes of Health's governmentwide acquisition contract has added to its record-breaking number of bid protests. The CIO-SP4 acquisition effort received protest number 315 and 316 in the last few weeks. Protest 315 from DV United 2 came and went within a week, but protest 316 from iDoxSolutions remains before the Government Accountability Office. DV United 2 withdrew its protest, but GAO has until April 29 to decide on iDoxSolutions' complaint. Both firms allege NITAAC unreasonably eliminated them from the competition, based on their self-scores. NITAAC said it began sending out phase one notices of a successful offer earlier this month and will send out phase 2 and phase 3 notices in the coming weeks.
While the latest continuing resolution will keep the government open until March, the Air Force already feels the impact of stopgap spending measures. Undersecretary of the Air Force Kristyn Jones said that budget uncertainty is affecting several initiatives that are part of Secretary Frank Kendall’s series of priorities, also known as operational imperatives. The service will have to delay its Collaborative Combat Aircraft Program, an initiative focused on unmanned combat air vehicles. The Air Force also cannot invest in Agile Combat Employment as the service initially planned. Jones said the failure to pass all 12 regular appropriations will have catastrophic effects on the Defense Department.
Federal employees who relocate for work, may soon have better coverage of their moving expenses. Currently, feds can get repaid for moving through either a lump sum or by creating an itemized list of receipts. Now the General Services Administration (GSA) is proposing an update to how the reimbursements are calculated. GSA's new proposal would clarify what can and cannot be expensed. It would also update the lump sum amount, which has stayed the same since 2011. GSA is accepting public comments on its proposal until March 25.
The National Archives and Records Administration, known as NARA, said it has officially eliminated a pandemic-era backlog of veterans records requests. At one point, the backlog of requests at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, stood at more than 600,000. That led to lengthy delays for veterans seeking their military service records. NARA said it used technology improvements, added staff, and expanded work hours to whittle down the backlog. Now, NARA can respond to most routine requests for veteran records within 20 days.
If confirmed, Melissa Dalton, President Joe Biden’s pick to be under secretary of the Air Force, will focus on nuclear modernization, Space Force expansion, and recruitment efforts. During her confirmation hearing, Dalton committed to finding innovative approaches for recruitment to appeal to Gen Z. Given her experience working on the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, Dalton also committed to the modernization of two legs of the nuclear triad. Dalton faced criticism from conservative lawmakers for the Biden administration’s decision to sell construction materials for the border wall and the Chinese spy balloon incident. It is not clear how Republican opposition will impact Dalton’s nomination.
Two House committees want to end the finger pointing between the Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury Department over who has the ultimate authority to manage and oversee federal spending data on the USAspending.gov portal. Rep. James Comer (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee and Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), chairman of the House Budget Committee, wrote to OMB and Treasury seeking details after a November GAO report found a lack of progress in ensuring agencies provide accurate, complete and timely reports to the portal. The committees asked OMB and Treasury for a staff-level briefing no later than February 9.
The leader of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee is outlining his oversight priorities to another government watchdog. Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) met with the Government Accountability Office and urged the agency to take a closer look at VA’s troubled rollout of the new Electronic Health Record Modernization program. Tester is also asking GAO how structural changes at VA could lead to better accountability, along with the avoidance of waste, fraud, and abuse.