Defense Financial Highlights

OMB wants to increase agency sharing of custom software

Friday, March 18th, 2016


The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) wants to increase agency accessibility of custom software developed for the federal government.

Last week OMB released a draft Federal Source Code policy to the public for comment. The proposed policy would “require new software developed specifically for or by the Federal Government to be made available for sharing and re-use across Federal agencies,” according to blog post by Tony Scott, Federal Chief Information Officer.

Scott said the new policy could achieve savings by “avoiding duplicative custom software purchases and promote innovation and collaboration across federal agencies.” The administration expects this program to spur innovation, reduce costs, and result in better service to the public.

This is consistent with the government's policy of “technology neutrality,” Scott stressed.

The draft policy would require new custom code developed and paid for by the government to be accessible to all federal agencies for reuse and the release of some of the new custom code to the public as Open Source Software.

OMB is particularly interested in public comments on releasing custom code as Open Source Software (OSS). The policy would require agencies (in a pilot program) “to release at least 20 percent of their newly-developed custom code, in addition to the release of all custom code developed by Federal employees at covered agencies as part of their official duties.”

In addition, OMB wants comments on how the pilot program might “fuel innovation, lower costs, benefit the public, and meet the operational and mission needs of covered agencies.” OMB also would like feedback on possible advantages and disadvantages of the program, potential metrics that could be used to determine effectiveness of the policy, and opportunities and challenges resulting from an open source policy.

Part of the implementation of this policy will be the initiation (within 90 days of publication) of “Project Open Source.” This will be “an online repository of tools, best practices, and schemas to help covered agencies implement this guidance.” This resource is expected to “facilitate the adoption of good custom source code development and release practices.” Also within 90 days of publication, agencies will update and maintain an inventory of information resources required by OMB Circular A-130. Under the OSS policy, each agency CIO will have to “develop an agency-wide policy that addresses the new requirements and amend or correct agency policies that are not consistent with the new policy.

The period of public comment ends on April 1, 2016. Comment and suggestions can be provided on GitHub “issues” and direct edits may be provided through “pull requests” on “edit this page.” Comments are also accepted via e-mail to the OMB Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer.

Proposed bill would reform DoD civilian hiring process at installations

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016


A bill introduced in the House would improve efficiency in the hiring process at military bases, according to its sponsors Rep, Steve Russell (R-OK) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

The Department of Defense Workforce Flexibility Act of 2016 (H.R. 4687) would allow “temporary employees within the U.S. Department of Defense to more easily apply for vacant, permanent positions within the department,” Russell said in a press release. This competition would occur under internal merit promotion procedures.

The bill would amend Title 5 of the United States Code and apply hiring provisions that currently apply to land management agencies.

Russell (a retired Army officer) and Mullin directed their attention to military installations in Oklahoma, e.g., McAlester Army Ammunition Plant and Tinker Air Force Base, which have a large number of temporary workers.  But, their legislation would also apply to DoD installations nationwide.

Russell said that hiring externally can involve a lengthy process, but “giving temporary workers the opportunity to apply for merit-based promotions would expedite hiring and cut down on the time needed for training a new hire.” Under the bill, temporary workers would apply for vacant permanent positions under the same procedures used by permanent workers for merit-based promotions.

This legislation would give installations the needed flexibility to hire temporary workers to fill permanent positions quickly to adapt to changing demands, Russell said.

The bill is supported by the McAlester Defense Support Association (MDSA) and the Federal Managers Association.

The proposed legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

ASMC & Grant Thornton Public Sector Release 2015 Survey of Defense Financial Managers

Friday, March 11th, 2016


The American Society of Military Comptrollers (ASMC) and Grant Thornton Public Sector today released the findings of their 2015 survey of Defense financial managers. The 13th annual survey reveals that top concerns for the military financial management community include budgetary pressures, an aging workforce and the ability to sustain auditability.

Read the press release here.

Carter announces Defense Innovation Advisory Board

Friday, March 4th, 2016


The Department of Defense (DoD) is poised to introduce a Defense Innovation Advisory Board Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced this week.

Speaking at a Microsoft-sponsored breakfast in Seattle, Carter said the board will “advise me and my successors on how the DoD can better connect to innovation and make better use of it—including by changing ourselves.

The Board will be chaired by Eric Schmidt and executive with Google's parent company Alphabet. Schmidt is the author of “How Google Works.”

Carter stressed that DoD must partner with the technological communities (e.g. Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Boston) “because technology is commercial and the competition is global.” The Secretary likened the Innovation Advisory Board to the Defense Business Board (DBB), which provides DoD with independent advice on the potential use of the best business practices.

Carter emphasized in Seattle that DoD must “innovate for the future, because that's the way to make sure we have the finest fighting force in the world tomorrow, 10 years for now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now.” So, DoD must invest in innovation to ensure that the U.S. Military stays the best in a changing and competitive world,” he said.

In a statement released by the Pentagon, DoD Press Secretary Peter Cook the Board's mandate will be “to provide department leaders independent advice on innovative and adaptive means to address future organizational and cultural challenges, including the use of technology alternatives.” The Board is expected to provide advice on particular areas of expertise such as, rapid prototyping, iterative product development, complex data analysis used in business decisions, mobile and cloud applications, and information sharing

Cook said the board (including up to 12 members) will be jointly selected by Schmidt and Secretary Carter. Members will be experienced in leading large private and public organizations and will have identified and adopted new technology concepts. They “will represent a cross-section of of America's most innovative industries, Cook said.

OPM updates USAJOBS website to improve the federal job seeking experience

Monday, February 29th, 2016


The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has introduced the first in a series of improvements to the USAJOBS website, the official federal government's job search and application website.

The purpose of these improvements is to make the application process more user-friendly for federal job applicants, according. OPM also expects these improvements will increase the number of completed job applications.

OPM surveyed job seekers and engaged human resource and design experts and specialists to develop these improvements, which include new capabilities and the incorporation of new U.S. Web Design Standards. This research effort determined that some users found the application process “difficult and frustrating” leading many to quit the process. The improvements to the website will address these concerns and will enhance the federal job seeking experience, OPM stressed.

The features of the improvements will: simplify the application process; reduce incomplete applications; and improve access to materials for completing the application process. The website will clearly show the steps to complete the application with a step-by-step process, OPM advised.

The new features on the website will make it easier for the federal job applicant to: track the progress of the application; find necessary documents without leaving the application process; save changes to the pending application; prepare, view, or delete a resume; attach resumes or other documents; and review the final application before submission. A video on the website briefly describes the features.

OPM will integrate additional features throughout the year to continue to improve the applicant's experience. Acting OPM Director Beth Colbert said “throughout the rest of the year, new features will be added to increase the usability of the USAJOBS website by enhancing the job application process for those interested in careers in the Federal Government.”

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