Congress looks to require military drone corps, which Army leaders oppose

House Armed Services Committee's bill is seen as premature by Gen. James Rainey, who leads the Army Futures Command.

  • The House Armed Services Committee’s draft defense policy bill would require the Army to establish a separate drone branch, but Army leaders continue to push against the idea. A provision in the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the defense bill would require the Army to establish a drone corps as a basic branch of the service. Gen. James Rainey, who leads the Army Futures Command, said it is too early for setting up a separate drone branch. One of the main priorities for the service right now is to integrate the technology into all units. Given the priorities, having a drone branch might be counterproductive, senior leaders said. The provision was adopted last month, but it will need to pass the full House and Senate to make it into the final bill.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is bringing employees back to the office more often. The CDC is telling most teleworking employees to come into the office at least twice each two-week pay period. There are exceptions, as the CDC is allowing employees in IT and data science roles to work remotely. Sylana Tramble, the director of CDC’s Human Resources Office said the CDC in 2023 tripled the number of applicants it saw for job postings, when the agency announced most openings as remote positions. “When you're limited to one geographic location, you're limited to the talent in that location, the demographics of that location,” Tramble said. “Remote [work] and telework really opened that up."
  • The Defense Department wants to make its pilot program to contract with more employee-owned firms permanent. In a new proposed rule, the Pentagon would establish the program in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations. The pilot lets DoD award one noncompetitive follow-on contract for the continued development, production or provision of products or services that were bought under previous contracts. Employee-owned firms typically are S corporations, for which 100% of the outstanding stock is held through an employee stock ownership plan. DoD initially implemented the pilot program through a 2022 policy. So far, eight businesses are participating in the pilot, of which six are small entities. Comments on the proposed rule are due by July 29.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is about to release one of its largest cyber contracts ever, as it consolidates two existing cybersecurity contracts into its upcoming Enterprise Cyber Infrastructure and Operation Support Services (ECIOSS) vehicle. OPM said the consolidated contract will provide for faster threat and incident response times, and reduce service outages by 25%, according to a justification obtained by GovTribe. OPM's pre-solicitation notice said it will set-aside ECIOSS for companies in the SBA's 8(a) program. The Request for Proposal will consist of six tasks, including managed services, enterprise operations center and network operations, infrastructure and architecture support services. OPM expects to release the RFP around June 12.
  • Congressional Republicans are looking at more cuts to State Department funding. The House Appropriations Committee introduced a spending bill that would cut State Department and USAID funding by about 12% in fiscal 2025. It would also eliminate more than 30 special envoy positions in such areas as climate, racial equity, and LGBTQ issues. The State Department received about a 7% cut to funding this year, which forced the department to slow down some of its hiring.
  • Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill) wants to increase transparency and access across all branches of the federal government. The congressman's Transparency in Government Act would expand financial disclosures for lawmakers and lobbyists, and enhance judicial transparency. The bill would also require public access to federal spending information and FOIA requests. Quigley said it is no secret that public trust in the federal government has plummeted and that increased transparency is the best way to restore it.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is officially extending a flexibility that lets agencies more easily hire military spouses. Under a new final rule from OPM, agencies can continue to noncompetitively appoint military spouses to federal jobs. The flexibility now lasts through December 2028. OPM’s final rule from last week is somewhat of a formality. An interim rule last fall already extended the hiring authority for the next four years. OPM received just a handful of comments on those regulations and adopted the final rule without any revisions.
  • The Navy will let commanding officers advance sailors to E-5 or E-6 ranks, if the sailors are willing to commit to additional obligated service. Starting June 1, commanding officers can recommend sailors for higher-ranking positions, if those billets are vacant. This new program called “Command Advance to Position,” will be available to all sailors not under orders or with orders pending release. This is the service’s latest attempt to fill thousands of its empty positions.
  • Thrift Savings Plan funds bounced back in May after posting widely negative returns in the previous month. All TSP funds posted positive returns last month with the Common Stock Index C fund leading the pack with almost a 5% return. The International Stock Index I Fund posted the second highest return, just falling behind the C fund by a few tenths of a percentage point. The Government Securities G Fund posted the lowest return. For 2024, all funds but the Fixed Income F Fund have increased, and all of the Life Cycle funds have posted positive returns.
    (TSP returns positive in May - Federal News Network)

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