Senators introduce bill authorizing new VA facilities in eight states

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) say the VA needs additional facilities, as it delivers more to veterans than ever before.

  • Top members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee are backing a slate of new Department of Veterans Affairs construction projects. A bill introduced by Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) would authorize new VA facilities in eight states and Puerto Rico. Another 10 senators have cosponsored the bill. Lawmakers said these facilities are needed by the VA, because it is delivering health care and benefits to more veterans than ever before.
  • In Honolulu, a trial is underway to determine how much the Navy might have to pay for the health effects of a fuel spill that impacted thousands of residents three years ago. In opening arguments yesterday, the government acknowledged it was responsible for leaking fuel at its Red Hill facility. But lawyers are contesting whether the fuel spill caused long-term health problems for the military families and other people who lived in the area, and whether the Navy did enough to protect people once it knew about the spill. A judge is hearing evidence based on claims from 17 military members, who represent about 7,500 others.
  • Federal agencies just hired 150 AI experts and are adding hundreds more. An interagency AI and Tech Talent Task Force said agencies expect to bring on at least 500 AI hires between now and the end of fiscal 2025. That doesn’t include the 2,500 AI hires the Defense Department is looking to make this year, and the more than 9,000 new hires it plans on making next year. Over 15 agencies have onboarded at least one new AI expert since last fall. That is when President Joe Biden called on agencies to step up their use of AI tools through an executive order.
  • Agencies set new records almost across the board for contracting with small businesses in fiscal 2023. The federal government awarded an all-time high of 28.4% of all eligible federal contract dollars to small businesses last year, well above the 23% governmentwide goal. New data from the Small Business Administration showed that is a total of almost $179 billion awarded to small firms in fiscal 2023. That is an increase of almost $16 billion from 2022. On SBA's annual scorecard released yesterday, 12 agencies, including the General Services Administration, and the departments of Commerce and Homeland Security, received "A plus" grades for exceeding their specific goals. SBA also said agencies exceeded the governmentwide goals for small disadvantaged businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small firms.
  • The Biden administration wants to reduce college-degree requirements for most federal IT jobs. The Office of Personnel Management is working to bring skills-based hiring to all jobs in the GS-2210 IT Management series by next summer. The 2210 job series represents nearly 100,000 technical positions across the federal government. “With the emergence of new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, skills-based hiring becomes ever more critical to finding and onboarding people who have gained the skill sets through whatever pathway,” Rob Shriver, deputy director of OPM, said at a White House event yesterday.
  • Employees at the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Gaithersburg campus developed a system to recover and recycle substantial quantities of liquid helium. The Marine Corps Installation Command's Transportation Services Branch deployed 21 solar-powered Beam electric vehicle charging stations across 14 installations to increase the number of available ports by 40%. These are two examples of the 32 employees from 11 agencies that won the Federal Energy and Water Management Awards. The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) recently recognized individuals, groups and agencies for their contributions in the areas of energy and water efficiency, resilience and technology achievements, distributed energy, cybersecurity, and fleet management at federal facilities.
  • Artificial intelligence brings both potential risks and benefits to U.S. critical infrastructure, according to new AI guidance released by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on Monday. CISA has identified more than 150 beneficial use cases for AI in critical infrastructure, including electric utilities, the defense industry and other sectors. But CISA’s guidance also urges system owners to pay particular attention to their dependencies on AI vendors. The guidelines identify four broad categories of AI risk management.
  • Federal contracting officers have a new guide to help them buy artificial intelligence tools and capabilities. The General Services Administration's Generative AI and Specialized Computing Infrastructure Acquisition Resource Guide aims to help acquisition workers better navigate this growing market. The guide provides everything from GenAI examples in government to recommendations on how to use testbeds and sandboxes before committing to large-scale buys. It also addresses challenges around managing and protecting data and controlling costs. GSA released the buying guide as part of its responsibilities under President Joe Biden's AI executive order issued in October.
    (GSA issues GenAI buying guide - GSA IT Vendor Management Office)

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