Senate bill would require feds to increase the amount of time they spend in the office

In today's Federal Newscast, a pair of senators is looking to get feds back to the office even more. 

  • A pair of senators is looking to get feds back to the office even more. If enacted, the Back to Work Act would require federal employees to spend 60% of their work hours in the office. It would mean a slight increase from the current in-person policy at many agencies, right now at about 50% in-the-office. Lawmakers say the bill is a way to address federal office space concerns, while still allowing for *some telework flexibility. Under the legislation, agencies would also have to monitor teleworking employees. They'd also have options to make exceptions to the 60% requirement where needed.
    (Back to Work Act of 2024 - Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.))
  • The Social Security Administration is setting near-term goals for better customer service, and charting its performance along the way. Callers trying to reach SSA over the phone waited more than 40 minutes, on average, to get help last November. Now the average wait time is about 24 minutes. SSA is looking to get that average wait time down to 12 minutes by September 2025. The agency launched a website where the public can see how SSA is performing against those customer experience targets. SSA says it’s trying to improve customer service, despite a growing workload and a shrinking workforce.
  • Negotiations are about to begin after more federal employees working overseas chose to unionize. The Federal Labor Relations Authority issued an official certificate of representation on Tuesday. That union certification comes after 200 DoD employees in Germany opted just last week to create new bargaining units with the American Federation of Government Employees. AFGE officials say they’re focused on expanding representation even further to reach civilian feds stationed all across Europe. Over time, that could amount to tens of thousands of new bargaining unit employees.
  • Lawmakers are asking agencies what they’re doing to become an employer of choice for military and Foreign Service families. Members of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee are asking the 24 largest federal agencies, how many of their employees are holding jobs while teleworking overseas. That’s all possible under the Domestic Employees Teleworking Overseas, or DETO program. The lawmakers are also asking agencies how many DETO applications they’ve approved or denied, and how many military or Foreign Service spouses have left federal service. The Defense and the State departments employ most DETOs, but other agencies are stepping up efforts to allow employees to hold jobs while living overseas.
  • House lawmakers want to know the Army National Guard’s plan to pay out reenlistment bonuses it owes to its service members. The Army National Guard has failed to fully pay reenlistment bonuses to more than 13,000 service members. Almost 4,000 of those 13,000 soldiers have left the service. It appears that the Guard wants service members to figure out how much they are owed. The lawmakers want to know when exactly service members and veterans will receive their payments. They also want to know if there is an appeals process for veterans who are denied their bonuses. Bonus payments can be up to $20,000.
  • Former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs is joining the Cyber Safety Review Board. He’s among a number of fresh additions to the Department of Homeland Security board. Dave Luber, the new head of the National Security Agency’s cybersecurity directorate, is also getting a spot on the panel. The review board was established in 2021 to investigate major cyber incidents. Last month, the board released a highly critical report on Microsoft’s cloud security practices.
  • Federal agencies are carrying out 100 initiatives to implement the National Cyber Strategy. The Office of the National Cyber Director released version two of the cyber strategy implementation plan on Tuesday. The document adds 31 new initiatives to the initial plan’s 69 tasks The new initiatives include a goal to expand the use of cybersecurity shared services across unclassified federal systems by the end of fiscal 2024. The General Services Administration is also working to make available government-wide cyber supply chain risk tools.
  • Doug Beck, the Defense Innovation Unit director, wants greater funding for the Replicator initiative. Beck says the department’s plan to deliver thousands of unmanned systems by August 2025 is on track. The first tranche of the program is focused on drones. The department is already working on the second part of the program which will be focused on software. The Defense Department recently secured about 5 hundred million dollars it needed to fund the initiative. The Defense Innovation Unit is helping with managing that funding for some aspects of the Replicator initiative.


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