Today is the deadline for agencies to get their plans for cutting back on telework over to the White House. Chief of Staff Jeff Zients said some agencies are still not where they need to be on getting employees back to the office. The Biden administration set a goal last year for agencies to have staff work in person at least 50% of the time. But many agencies have not yet complied with the administration's request. Agency officials have to give the White House an update by the end of today on their timeline for returning feds to the office, and what steps they will take to get there.
(Chief of Staff Jeff Zients email to agency heads - White House email)
The government's top diversity official is about to step down, as many agencies are looking for more direction. There is not enough clarity on the positions or goals to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the federal workforce. That is what some human capital leaders are telling the Office of Personnel Management. The workforce officials are asking for help with analyzing demographic data, and getting more defined qualifications for positions in DEIA. Federal employees' perceptions on agencies' diversity goals have improved significantly over the last couple of years. But agencies said more guidance from OPM will help them take things even further.
The IRS is providing better customer service to taxpayers, but is still falling short on some of its goals, the Government Accountability Office has found. The GAO said the IRS improved its level of phone service and reduced the average number of days it took to process paper tax returns during last year’s filing season. But GAO said the IRS still struggles to keep up with taxpayer correspondence. The IRS made 26,000 hires over the past two years to improve taxpayer services.
The White House has set new expectations for how agencies should support small business contracting. Agencies should take specific steps like on-ramps, applying the “rule of two” and even not using “best-in-class” contracts, should they be detrimental to small firms when managing or buying off of a multiple-award contract. A new memo from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy gives agencies a series of actions to increase the small business supplier base and opportunities. OFPP said the guidance also encourages earlier engagement and planning with agencies for multiple-award contracts. The memo comes as agencies spent a record amount of money through multiple-award contracts in fiscal 2023 with GSA's schedules reaching a new all-time high of $46 billion.
Transgender veteran advocates are suing the Department of Veterans Affairs over stalled plans to cover gender confirmation surgery. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said more than two years ago that the VA would cover gender confirmation surgery for veterans. But the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) and Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic said rulemaking delays have kept VA from upholding its promise. They filed a federal lawsuit urging the VA to provide more answers. TAVA President Bekky Eshler said there is currently no clear timeline on the VA’s rulemaking process. "Enough is enough. It's time for the VA to show us what they really want to do,” Eshler said.
Three agencies are getting a combined $71 million to modernize legacy systems. The Technology Modernization Fund board made its first awards of 2024 to the Justice Department, to the General Services Administration and to the Armed Forces Retirement Home. DoJ is slated to received $45 million to improve anti-trust enforcement technology. GSA would receive almost $20 million to accelerate its e-rulemaking modernization effort. And the Armed Forces Retirement Home would get $6 million to move to a new electronic health record system that is interoperable with the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
The Space Force’s most recent component will play a crucial role in how it coordinates with Space Command. Space Forces – Space (S4S) will provide combat-ready space power for combatant commanders, the Joint Force, and allies and partners. The new service component will deliver space capabilities, including space domain awareness, space defense, space electromagnetic warfare and satellite communication. Lt. Gen. David Miller, the commander of the Space Operations Command, said the shift will address the Space Command’s challenge of balancing readiness while executing space operations. S4S will become fully operational at the end of the month.
Another agency is coming under scrutiny for how it is supporting small business contracting. It was NASA last week; now it is the Department of Veterans Affairs. House Veterans Affairs Committee lawmakers are questioning why VA did not increase the number of small business awardees even more under its Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation 2 (T4NG2) contract vehicle. Lawmakers said the ceiling of T4NG2 rose to $60 billion, or 172%, but the number of small firms selected only rose by 43%, from 21 awardees to 30. Lawmakers want documents explaining VA's decision by February 8 and a staff-level briefing by February 1.
The Marine Corps is moving away from strictly using the 2030 label when discussing its Force Design 2030 modernization plan. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said the service should drop the 2030 part of Force Design, since it is only a waypoint. Force Design, a concept focused on modernization, means that the service needs to continually refine the things that go into it. Mahoney said that while the 2030 aspect helped to chart the roadmap for the service, Force Design is a constantly evolving program. Gen. Eric Smith unveiled the Force Design 2030 plan in 2020 with a focus on installations and logistics, modernization, talent management and education.