Weekly Roundup May 19, 2017
Michael J. Keegan
$500M IT modernization bill passes House. The Modernizing Government Technology Act passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote, but the Senate outlook is less certain.
Do feds make too much money? A recent Congressional Budget Office report added fuel to the fire, with its finding that federal employees are compensated more than their private sector counterparts. CBO scored feds as, on average, earning 17 percent more in wages plus compensation than private sector employees with similar education levels.
House GOP presses for civil service changes, as President's 2018 proposals emerge. House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) says civil service reform is coming. The committee heard proposals for possible changes to federal employees’ pay and benefits Thursday.
OMB chief: People are 'immune to the true costs of government'. The head of the Office of Management and Budget warned that balancing the federal budget by reducing spending alone would require double-digit cuts. "I don't know if the country is ready to balance the budget based just upon reducing spending," OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said on May 17. "Keep in mind what you would have to do: It'd be a 12 to 13 percent across-the-board cut this year," he said.
Why DIUx shouldn't exist. In an ideal world, the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental would not exist. Not because the work it is doing is not needed or valuable, say acquisition experts, but because the military services would be doing it for themselves. Section 809 of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act created a panel dedicated to streamlining the defense acquisition process. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing, panel members said that in the next year they will be making "bold" recommendations on how to streamline defense acquisition.
What will it take to change accountability at VA? The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which senators introduced last week, may have more momentum than previous bills. It now has 12 co-sponsors, including four Democrats and VA Secretary David Shulkin himself. Yet some federal employee groups and experts question whether the new bill has the teeth to truly tackle long entrenched cultural problems at the department.
Customer Service Bill. NextGov reports that a bill has been introduced in the Senate that would: “roll back requirements that force agencies to go through lengthy approval processes to gather voluntary feedback from citizens and customers, and further creates both legislative and executive oversight mechanisms to oversee how agencies deliver services.”
Cyber Security EO. Federal News Radio reports that: “President Donald Trump signed the much anticipated and long-waited executive order refocusing the federal cybersecurity efforts around three broad categories: (1) Protecting federal networks; (2) Protecting critical infrastructure: (3)Securing the nation through deterrence, international cooperation and the workforce. . . . In the EO, the White House is telling each agency to provide a risk management report to the Homeland Security Department and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within 90 days.”
Agency Reorg Without Cuts? Government Executive is keeping a running list of strategies agencies are using to respond to OMB’s directive to reorganize and streamline their workforces. “Some are voluntarily extending the hiring freeze until they can get their bearings and have more budget certainty. Others have already decided to offer buyouts. And at least one large department plans to reorganize without cutting its workforce.” What is your agency’s strategy?
Mandating Mobile-Friendly Websites. NextGov reports: “Legislation introduced into the House of Representatives last week would require all new and redesigned federal websites be mobile friendly. . . . Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, authored the Connect to Government Act.”
Major Milestone for Implementation of DATA Act. On May 9th, “Treasury launched the Beta.USAspending.gov website to allow the public to more clearly track how their tax dollars are spent. We released this new version of the USAspending.gov site in accordance with the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) requirements. The data on the new Beta.USAspending.gov is compiled by Treasury from federal agencies and published quarterly beginning in May 2017. . . . The “Beta” site will run concurrently with the existing version of the USAspending.gov website over the summer to minimize disruptions to users’ data access and provide more time to add enhancements. Treasury plans on expanding and improving the site over the summer to add functionality and features based on feedback.”
Media reports on the DATA Act milestone include:
Part I: DATA Act Standardized Federal Spending Reporting (Federal News Radio)
Part II: The Power of the DATA Act (Federal News Radio)
DATA Act Advocates Reflect on Three Years of Planning (Federal News Radio)
How Data Analytics Can Help Save Money (Federal News Radio)
Is Anyone Making the Deadline? (NextGov)
New Report. The Pew Charitable Trusts has issued a new report, “How Policymakers Prioritize Evidence-Based Programs Through Law: Lessons from Washington, Tennessee, and Oregon.”
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The Business of Government Hour Radio Show: Gay Gilbert, Administrator, Office of Unemployment Insurance within the U.S. Department of Labor. What are the strategic priorities of Labor’s Office of Unemployment Insurance? How does the UI program work? What are improper payments and how has UI program sought to reduce them? Join host Michael Keegan next week as he explores these questions and more with Gay Gilbert, Administrator, Office of Unemployment Insurance within the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s next week on The Business of Government Hour.
Broadcast Schedule: The show airs Monday at 11 a.m., and Friday at 1 p.m. on Federal News Radio 1500AM WFED.