- The contract to bring the third generation of e-travel to the government has hit the market. The General Services Administration is planning a new service to make paying for travel and expenses easier across government. GSA’s new solicitation for E-travel Next Generation seeks to consolidate the number of vendors providing the software from two to one governmentwide shared service. The new system would enable federal employees to easily plan and book travel reservations online and be reimbursed in an automated manner. GSA expects E-travel Next Gen to handle about three million transactions a year for 124 civilian agencies. GSA will hold an industry day on December 7 and proposals are due by January 31.
- A new study suggests “more money” is not the only solution when it comes to improving the government’s cyber defenses. Agencies should do a better job planning, coordinating and communicating the risks of cyber attacks on federal networks and data. That is the upshot of a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It suggests the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency needs more consistent staffing to help agencies develop cyber risk strategies and tailored dashboards to monitor networks. The report also recommended that Congress boost CISA’s authorities and give agencies more flexibility in their cyber budgets.
- Several bills affecting federal benefits are gaining some attention. Federal unions and organizations are throwing their support behind a handful of reintroduced bills that could change benefits for federal employees. The National Federation of Federal Employees said the new Federal Retirement Fairness Act would offer relief to seasonal and temporary feds who currently have less opportunity to contribute to retirement savings. And the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association is urging Congress to pass a different, new bill that would offer higher death benefit amounts for the civilian federal workforce. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee plans to mark up that legislation tomorrow.
- The State Department is expanding Foreign Service training resources amid a hiring surge. The department is unveiling a new wing of its Foreign Service Institute meant to train about 900 newly hired Foreign Service officers each year. It has seen a 20-30% increase in its Foreign Service and civil service ranks since 2020. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the new space is meant to accommodate the largest hiring surge the department has seen in more than a decade. “The truth is for decades, we underinvested in training, because we were short-staffed on the frontlines,” Blinken said.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sworn in the agency’s new general counsel. Karla Gilbride, a President Biden nominee, will step into the position, which oversees the EEOC’s litigation program. Gildbride’s swearing in came shortly after the Senate confirmed her to a four-year term on Oct. 17. She joins the EEOC with more than 15 years of experience working on employment discrimination cases. Gilbride, who is blind, is also the first person with a known disability to be appointed as EEOC general counsel.
- The Justice Department is making it easier for its attorneys to offer, and for citizens to obtain, pro bono legal services. At the 20th anniversary of the Federal Government Pro Bono Week, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco launched the DoJ Pro Bono Portal, a new initiative to expand Justice’s Pro Bono Program, led by the Office for Access to Justice. Through the online platform, DoJ attorneys will receive screened pro bono opportunities in the Washington, D.C. community. The platform ensures the pro bono work does not pose conflicts of interest for attorneys and will include guidance about the rules governing their involvement.
- The Department of Defense might have to perform more tasks around artificial intelligence because of a newly introduced bill. The bill would require DoD to create an artificial intelligence bug bounty program for AI models integrated into the department. The department would also need to perform a study on vulnerabilities for artificial intelligence-enabled military applications. Lastly, the Defense Department would have to report on data sharing and coordination for artificial intelligence. The Artificial Intelligence Advancement Act of 2023 was introduced in the Senate and also requires a report on artificial intelligence regulation in the financial services industry.
- More than 100 agencies and 11,000 contractors have transitioned to a new system for submitting security clearance applications. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) said the shift to the new eApp portal marks a milestone in efforts to modernize the federal background investigations process. eApp replaces the old Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (eQIP) system. While the new portal is up and running, DCSA is still building a new background investigations database and other modern software to support the clearance process.
- Only 30% of service members who will transition from military service to civilian life have started the transition assistance program one year before leaving, as legally required. At a hearing last week, Senators expressed concerned about that low number, because of the importance of the program to inform members about their available benefits. However, the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have several programs to reach out to veterans and help them enroll in benefits or provide them with skills and certifications to help the transition.
- The Office of Management and Budget will add a chief customer experience officer to its ranks, if a bipartisan bill makes it through Congress. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) teamed up with Reps. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), William Timmons (R-S.C.) and Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) to introduce the Government Service Delivery Improvement Act. The bill would require OMB to appoint a senior official whose primary job would be to lead governmentwide improvements in customer service. The bill also makes it clear that agency heads are responsible for how well they deliver services to the public. Khanna led a 2018 law requiring agencies to make their services more accessible online and on mobile devices.
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