Spanberger demands VA clean up its act when awarding financial incentives

VA's payout of millions of dollars to ineligible executives creates congressional concern and a need for answers.

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs paid out $11 million in bonuses to career executives not eligible to receive them. Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers is seeking answers. House lawmakers are asking VA how long it will take to claw back those bonuses and what steps it will take to hold department leaders accountable. The lawmakers also want to know what steps VA will take to ensure future financial incentives are awarded responsibly.
  • For the second time this week, a federal cybersecurity leader is heading out the door. Eric Goldstein, the executive assistant director for cybersecurity at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is leaving federal service after more than three years. CISA confirmed his last day will be in June, but didn't say exactly when. Goldstein's decision to leave government comes two days after Chris DeRusha, the federal chief information security officer, announced his decision to move on. CISA Director Jen Easterly praised Goldstein, saying through his leadership CISA pioneered new models of operational collaboration, reshaped its ability to detect and address cyber risks and shifted the balance toward building technology that is secure by design. A CISA spokesperson didn't say who would be acting in his place after Goldstein leaves.
  • Transportation Security Administration employees are about to see major workforce changes. That is after TSA signed off on a new collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees. The seven-year contract offers more official time, sick leave, uniform allowances and much more. It also comes after TSA workers received a major pay bump last year. Altogether, it will have a massive positive impact, said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “If we didn’t have this CBA, if we didn’t have this pay package, I would submit to you, we probably wouldn’t have a TSA in five or 10 years,” Pekoske said. Looking ahead, AFGE is now calling for the passage of a bill to further cement workforce rights at TSA.
  • New legislation in the House calls for a crackdown on improper payments. Federal agencies made more than $230 billion in improper payments last year. A bipartisan bill seeks to rein in that wasteful spending. The Enhancing Improper Payment Accountability Act would subject federal spending programs to stricter reporting requirements if they pay out more than $100 million annually. It would also require agencies to report out their antifraud and risk management controls. Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Blake Moore (R-Utah) are leading the bill.
  • The White House wants agencies to consider social and behavioral science in policymaking. On Wednesday, the Biden administration released its Blueprint for the use of Social and Behavioral Science to Advance Evidence-Based Policymaking. Policymakers will have access to data used to measure the effectiveness of government services, and how they reach their intended targets, before developing programs. The blueprint provides a hundred examples of how social and behavioral science has been used to advance innovation and ensures that agencies will have the appropriate number of staff with the required expertise.
  • The Technology Modernization Fund Board is making its first investment in generative artificial intelligence as part of awarding four new investments, worth $49.2 million, to three agencies yesterday. The State Department received its first two awards from the TMF, including $18.2 million to use GenAI in its data environment to improve the sharing and understanding of information among all of its offices around the world. The State Department also won funding to modernize its identity and access management tools. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Office of Federal Student Aid won the two awards from the TMF to modernize customer-facing systems. Since January 1, the TMF Board has made nine awards to eight agencies.
  • The Army is getting rid of its online training for enlisted troops. The service is eliminating the requirement for all enlisted soldiers to complete the Distributed Leader Course. Soldiers currently working on the courses will not be required to complete them. And soldiers who have not begun the training are no longer required to start. Enlisted soldiers were previously required to complete the courses before attending a noncommissioned officer academy.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to use a career development portal to boost its cyber workforce skills. The internal VA website includes training modules spanning 32 different cyber work roles across the agency. Through the portal, the VA is offering courses in IT, AI awareness and much more. VA employees can also take a self-assessment to decide what skills they can — and should — try to develop. The goal is two-fold: improve retention of the agency’s cyber employees, and close some of the VA's existing skills gaps in technology.
    (VA career development portal - Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • The Department of Homeland Security will launch a cyber task force focused on artificial intelligence if a bipartisan bill makes it through Congress. The bill would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to lead a group to address safety and security challenges posed by AI. CISA’s AI task force would give annual updates on its work to Congress. Reps. Troy Carter (D-La.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Texas) introduced the bill.
  • House lawmakers want to give personnel at the Office of Strategic Capital temporary assignments in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee’s draft defense bill would require the Defense Department to establish a program under which the Office of Strategic Capital would arrange assignments for its employees at private companies, with the goal of improving their understanding of emerging defense industrial base capabilities and the role of venture capital in shaping future modernization requirements.

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