A Special Salary Rate (SSR) at the Veterans Health Administration ups the ante on pay incentives. VHA recently approved an SSR for its human resources workforce, resulting in about a 15% pay increase. Eligible employees saw the pay bump go into effect last month. VHA previously offered HR staff a critical skills incentive that had to be renewed every year. But David Perry, VHA’s chief officer for workforce management and consulting, said the SSR gives the agency long-term tools to compete for in-demand experts. “It’s more of a permanent adjustment to salary,” Perry said.
U.S. Cyber Command has achieved the designation of a federal laboratory. The designation will provide CYBERCOM with unique rights and privileges, such as allowing the command to drive innovation and contribute to the development of cyber technologies. It will also open up opportunities for working with academia and industry partners to address the challenges CYBERCOM faces. The command has also established the Office of Research and Technology Application, which will be responsible for executing Educational Partnership Agreements and all Technology Transfer agreements.
Veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other harmful substances may soon have an easier time getting benefits and health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA, through a proposed rule, is looking to expand the criteria that define when and where veterans were exposed to toxic materials. The department currently presumes veterans who served in Vietnam, and limited areas of Thailand and Korea, were exposed to toxic substances. The 2022 PACT Act expanded the list of medical conditions the VA believes are caused by that toxic exposure.
NASA has a new director of small business programs. Dwight Deneal comes to the space agency after spending the last four-plus years at the Defense Logistics Agency. Deneal replaces Glenn Delgado, who retired from NASA two months ago. Earlier in his federal career, Deneal oversaw small business programs at the Coast Guard and the Department of Health and Human Services. In fiscal 2022, NASA spent $3.6 billion with over 1,700 small businesses, earning an “A” grade on the SBA small-business scorecard.
The General Services Administration wants to show agencies just how flexible their current office furniture actually is. GSA is expanding its Workplace Innovation Lab to its sixth floor, to demonstrate that agencies do not have to spend money to achieve a more flexible, agile office space. The new demonstration comes after the Workplace Innovation Lab completed a successful first year. GSA said in 2023, 1,800 registered users made 4,200 individual desk reservations and over 3,900 meeting-room reservations.
The Defense Department now offers executive-level courses on the implications of incorporating data analytics and artificial intelligence into daily operations. The DoD Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO) is partnering with Johns Hopkins University, the Naval Postgraduate School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to provide three- to four-day courses to professionals at the executive level. The goal is to equip them with a better understanding of how these technologies can transform various aspects of their work. The CDAO also plans to develop courses at other levels. Additionally, the Defense Department is introducing 11 new roles that acknowledge the value of individuals with data analytics and AI expertise.