Federal offices in the D.C. metro area were open on-time today, but federal employees were allowed to take unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. The Office of Personnel Management made the decision to open on time despite temperatures dipping well below freezing last night and concerns over icy roads. The D.C. metro area has been digging out of between two and six inches of snow, which blanketed the region on Monday. Weather conditions remain frigid.
A federal judge is challenging gun restrictions in post offices across the country. A USPS truck driver was arrested in 2022 for bringing a concealed handgun into work. But a U.S. District Court in Florida said the employee had a right, under the Second Amendment, to carry a gun for self-defense in the post office where he worked. The judge said the federal government has the authority to prohibit firearms at government facilities, but that there is no historic precedent for banning them at post offices. The judge dismissed a charge against the employee for illegally possessing a gun in a federal facility, but did not dismiss another charge for forcibly resisting arrest.
Agencies do not all measure telework in the same way. Some agencies use multiple methods to collect data on their teleworking employees. But an Office of Personnel Management report showed that the methods are inconsistent governmentwide. About two-thirds of agencies, for instance, use their time and attendance system to track teleworking in the workforce. A quarter of agencies manually review telework agreements. And a quarter of agencies use a customized tracking system to count teleworking employees. OPM said agencies face challenges in data collection because of technological limitations. But at the same time, OPM said it is trying to improve the data by setting stricter requirements for agencies moving forward.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is building on a key workforce initiative, by expanding its neurodiversity hiring efforts. The agency plans to hire a new cohort of up to six neurodiverse individuals later this year. That is after NGA, in 2020, became one of the first federal agencies to launch a neurodiversity hiring pilot. Neurodiversity refers to differences in how the brain works and includes conditions such as autism. Going forward, NGA plans to embed its neurodiversity hiring efforts into its broader persons with disabilities recruiting program.
Another big step was taken in the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) mission to transition the Defense Department from massive, expensive satellites to a constellation of smaller, cheaper ones. SDA is making awards worth up to $2.5 billion to L-3 Harris, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Space to build “Tranche 2” of its tracking layer. That is the part of the space architecture meant to detect missile threats. Each company will build and run 16 satellites in low-earth orbit. All 54 of the small satellites are expected to launch by 2027, but SDA said that schedule could get delayed if Congress doesn’t pass a full 2024 budget by the end of March.
The Defense Information Systems Agency will get a new intelligence unit later this year. Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner, DISA’s director, said that the unit will be able to provide support to combatant commands and other agencies. This will be the agency’s first intelligence directorate. Skinner announced the establishment of the new unit last year and the goal is to have it fully operational by the end of 2024.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is looking to reduce deaths and severe health complications for veterans who give birth. But the Government Accountability Office finds the severe morbidity rate for VA patients giving birth nearly doubled between 2011 and 2020. GAO said 13 veterans died from pregnancy-related causes within that period. That is out of about 40,000 delivery hospitalizations covered by the VA. Research shows pregnant veterans are more likely than other pregnant people to have physical and mental health conditions that may contribute to adverse maternal health outcomes.
The Biden administration will conduct a series of so-called cyber hiring sprints to fill vacancies across the federal government this year. That is the word from National Cyber Director Harry Coker, who spoke at the Community College of Baltimore County last week. Coker said the sprints will help bring more people from diverse backgrounds into federal cyber jobs. And he said the White House is working on ways to streamline the hiring, perhaps by removing the requirement for a four-year degree.
Federal executives will soon have the opportunity to share both successes and challenges in how they manage their employees. The Office of Personnel Management will launch its annual human capital review this March. The goal is to hear from agency leaders on how they are addressing workforce concerns and how they are trying to reach better performance overall. Managers across agencies can discuss best practices and the root causes of challenges and then work with OPM to figure out solutions. OPM said much of this year’s human capital review will focus on data collection and improvements.
Recommendations around modernizing the Defense Department's requirements system and budget documents will be challenging to implement in the coming years, authors of a new report have found. The Atlantic Council’s Commission on Defense Innovation Adoption released its final report, laying out recommendations and case studies to help DoD and Congress adopt new technologies faster. The panel said strengthening the alignment of capital markets to defense needs and modernizing the bureaucratic Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System process will be especially difficult areas to reform in the future. Congress and DoD have fully or partially implemented six recommendations, but the report acknowledges that it will take some time to see systemic changes.