Lawmakers’ weekend effort delivers six funding bills, as government shutdown fuse sizzles

To avoid a government shutdown, the bills still must be approved by both houses of Congress before March 9, both of which return to work on Tuesday afternoon.

  • With the shutdown clock resetting on Friday, Senate lawmakers got working over the weekend. House and Senate appropriations committee members agreed on a package of six funding bills on Sunday, as a key first step to moving some agencies off of a continuing resolution. The minibus bill includes 2024 spending plans for the departments of Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, Energy, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs. Many of these agencies are, once again, facing a lapse in appropriations on Saturday. The bills still must be approved by both houses of Congress before March 9, both of which return to work on Tuesday afternoon.
  • The General Services Administration’s top IT official said GSA made some honest mistakes when it purchased more than a hundred cameras made in China. Chief Information Officer David Shive concedes GSA should have done a better job documenting its requirements when it bought 150 Chinese-manufactured video conferencing cameras in 2022. But Shive disputes that GSA violated the Trade Agreements Act, because the purchase came under the $183,000 threshold. GSA’s inspector general said the purchase violated the TAA because GSA intended to buy more of the cameras after an initial pilot program. Lawmakers on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee called the situation a troubling episode.
  • The Marine Corps’ top officer might be back on the job in the next several weeks. Gen. Eric Smith has been sidelined since late October, when he had a heart attack near his home at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington. Defense officials told the Associated Press that Smith was briefly in the Pentagon on Friday and he will return to his status as the Commandant of the Marine Corps after doctors clear him for duty. Smith underwent surgery to repair a heart valve in January.
  • Agencies are on the hunt for better Freedom of Information Act technology. The Justice Department and the National Archives will team up to host the NextGen FOIA Tech Showcase on May 14 and 15. The goal is to identify technologies, including artificial intelligence, that can help agencies with FOIA case processing and backlog challenges. Initial submissions to participate in the FOIA showcase are due by March 29.
  • The Senate has confirmed, by a voice vote, Adm. Samuel Paparo to the post of commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Paparo will replace Adm. John Aquilino, who is retiring this spring. During his confirmation hearing, Paparo pledged to address gaps in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. He also pledged to improve airfields, sea ports and warehousing to decrease logistics vulnerabilities. Paparo currently leads the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He was nominated for the new role last August.
    (Senate confirms Paparo to lead INDOPAYCOM - Senate Armed Services Committee)
  • Federal investors found mostly positive news in February's Thrift Savings Plan returns. After a disappointing start to the year, most funds posted positive returns in January. The small cap stock index S fund led the positive news with a 6% return, bouncing back from last month's negative showing. The fixed income F fund continued to post negative returns in February, resuming a two-month slide. The common stock C fund continues the good news, with more than 30% growth for the last 12 months, while all Lifecycle funds remained positive.
  • Around for decades, the hard-copy version of the PLUM Book is one step closer to its demise. The book identifies some 9,000 presidentially-appointed and other positions within the federal government. The Office of Personnel Management issued data collection requirements, data standards and other guidance for agencies to update their information on its new website. OPM launched the new PLUM Book portal last December. Through the website, OPM requires agencies to list every position that is appointed by the President, Senate-confirmed and a part of the Senior Executive Service. OPM said agencies should update their positions at least annually, detailing 11 different elements including pay plan, geographical location and any vacant positions.
  • The Defense Information Systems Agency has awarded Palantir a $9.8 million Other Transaction Agreement for joint electromagnetic spectrum operations. Over the next 12 months, the agency’s Program Executive Office for Spectrum will work with U.S. Strategic Command, the operational sponsor, and Palantir to deliver a planning tool that can automate operational electromagnetic spectrum planning processes. The Pentagon said it is looking to increase interoperability between combatant commands, joint task forces and the military components that make up those joint groups.
  • The top Democrat on the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee is asking the Government Accountability Office for a “full assessment” on how the IRS can use artificial intelligence to meet its missions. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said he is looking for ways to balance AI's efficiencies against the downsides. One of them, he said, is the fact that oversight bodies like Congress cannot quite tell how AI models are weighing various factors in their decision making.

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