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Gen. Joseph Lengyel sworn in as National Guard Bureau Chief

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter swore in Gen. Joseph Lengyel as Chief of the National Guard Bureau (NGB) at the Pentagon. 

Lengyel succeeds Army Gen. Frank Grass who is retiring.  Grass had been the first NGB Chief to be on the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Secretary of Defense Ash Carter thanked Gen. Grass for his strong leadership as the National Guard chief.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called Gen, Lengyel a “proven strategic thinker” who “will lead this force with certainty, clearly and the full confidence and trust of myself and the president.”

Gen. Lengyel has been the Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau since August 2012.  Prior to that he was the Chief of the Office of Military Cooperation and Defense Attaché, U.S. Central Command, Cairo, Egypt.  He has also served as: Vice-Commander. 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) Tyndall AFB (July 2010-June 2011); Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Programs, HQ, USAF (June 2010-July 2010); Commander, Air National Guard Readiness Center, Andrews AFB (September 2006-September 2008); Commander, 455th Expeditionary Operations Group, Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan (June 2004-September 2004).

Lengyel was commissioned through Reserve Officer Training Corp Program in 1981.  His Air Force operational and staff assignments include:  Commander, 149th Operations Group, Kelly AFB (September 1996-June 1997); Commander 182nd Fighter Squadron, Kelly AFB (October 1998-October 1999); and Commander, 149th Operations Group, Lackland AFB (October 1999-February 2002)

Gen Lengyel is the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau and will lead over 450,000 Army and Air National Guard personnel.

OMB issues cyber workforce strategy

Friday, August 5th, 2016

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The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued a new Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy to address the government’s shortfall in cybersecurity professionals,OMB sent a memo to all Departments and Agencies identifying workforce needs and laying out a strategy to recruit, train, develop, and retain and sustain “a capable and competent workforce in key functional areas” of a cybersecurity workforce. The memo was signed by OMB Director Shaun Donovan, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Acting Director Beth Colbert, and the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) Tony Scott.

The strategy seeks to respond to what OMB calls “increasingly sophisticated and persistent cyber threats that pose strategic, economic, and security challenges” to the United States. These threats, according to OMB, require a “Federal cybersecurity workforce with the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to use those tools to enhance the security of the Federal digital infrastructure and improve the ability to detect and respond to cyber incidents when they occur.”

Development of the Strategy was directed by OMB Memorandum M-16-04, Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan (CSIP) for the Federal Government, issued October, 2015. OMB coordinated the actions of four teams composed of experts from government, the private sector, and academia, that reviewed “existing and forward-leaning strategies for recruiting, developing, and retaining Cybersecurity professionals.” OMB, along, with OPM, used this work to prepare the workforce strategy.

The National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework (issued last year) outlines how agencies should look at cybersecurity work and the workforce requirements and establish training and development programs. Agencies should examine cyber work roles and determine skill gaps when filling vacancies, according to the memo. The Framework directs agencies to improve cybersecurity workforce requirements by: 1) educating Human Resources and Chief Information Officer staff on the tools available from the Workforce Framework; 2) expanding cybersecurity position coding to align with vacancies; and 3) working with the private sector to look at future workforce needs.

The Strategy provides guidance on how agencies should expand the cybersecurity talent pipeline, recruit and hire skilled talent; and retain and develop that talent. The appendix to the memo sets deadlines from 3 months to one year for completion of the requirements in each of these areas.

To expand the cybersecurity talent pipeline, the government should make long-term investments in cybersecurity education to establish “a sustainable cybersecurity workforce.” Government initiatives, such as “Computer Science for All” (aimed at P-12 students), can be used to stimulate interest in cyber-related fields. The government should also develop a cybersecurity core curriculum and agencies should work with academic institutions to identify and address skill gaps, according to the Strategy.

To recruit and hire skilled cybersecurity talent, the Strategy directs agencies to “engage in strategic recruitment and awareness campaigns” and go after talented students who may not seek out government careers. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will stand up a “Cybersecurity Surge Corps” that will send experts to help agencies with “incident response, systems engineering, and enterprise security.” Agencies are also directed to recruit diverse talent from veterans and current civil servants and develop a program of rotational assignments for private sector employees to share expose them to federal service and share their skills with federal staff. The Strategy also states that the government should also explore the use of existing compensation flexibilities new pay program opportunities.

To retain cybersecurity talent, OMB, OPM, DHS, and other agencies are directed to) focus on retaining top performers; 2) develop a government-wide cybersecurity orientation program; 3) develop and promote career paths, rotational assignments, and mentoring and coaching programs; 4) develop and utilize existing cybersecurity training programs in related career fields; 5) develop and utilize existing competitions and credentialing programs to assist employees in qualifying for pay increases or promotions; and 6) develop a common program for training in specific professional categories of employment.


OMB Mid-Session Review projects slight improvement in FY2016 deficit

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

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The FY2016 federal budget deficit will be only $16 billion lower than the administration estimated in February, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

In its annual Mid-Session Review of the Budget, OMB now expects the FY2016 deficit to be $600 billion compared to $616 billion, the projection made when the FY2017 budget was released in February.  The deficit for FY2017 is expected to be $441 billion, $63 billion lower than OMB’s earlier estimate of $503 billion.

Measured as percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the deficit is expected to be 3.3 percent in FY2016, unchanged from OMB’s previous projection.  OMB expects the deficit’s share of GDP to begin declining in FY2017 (2.3 percent) and even further to 1.7 percent in FY2018.  That share will hover around 2 percent from FY2019 to 2021 and stay in the 2.4 percent to 2.6 ercent range from FY2022 to 2026, according to OMB.

A $59 billion expected decline in receipts for FY2016 (-1.7 percent) is more than offset by a $75 billion decrease (1.8 percent) in expected expenditures.  The lower estimate in revenue is primarily due to technical adjustments based on new tax collection data.  Decreased estimates of both discretionary (spending from appropriations) and mandatory spending in FY2016 also reflect economic changes and technical re-estimates.

While OMB now expects cumulative deficits through 2026 to be 14 percent ($880 billion) lower than their February projections, annual deficits will still rise to $731 billion in 2026 from $600 billion in FY2016, totaling $5.2 trillion.  Almost 60 percent of the revised total expenditure estimates (-$1.3 trillion) through 2026 are due to expected lower interest payments (-$770 billion), based on revised economic assumptions.  OMB expects mandatory expenditures to decline by $597 billion during 2017-2026.  Discretionary spending will increase by only $48 billion during the period.

The OMB projections are based on the administration’s economic assumptions and its proposed spending and revenue proposals. The unemployment rate is expected to average 4.8 percent in 2016 (down from 5.3 percent in 2015) and is projected to decline slightly to 4.7 percent in 2017. OMB expects the unemployment rate to stay in the 4.6 to 4.9 percent range through 2026. OMB estimates the annual change in consumer prices (CPI-U) to rise to 2.2 percent in 2017 from 1.2 percent in 2017, and level off at 2.3 percent by 2019.

CBO warns unchecked long-term spending and revenue imbalance could lead to growing deficits and record high debt levels

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

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The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned this week that unless policymakers make significant changes in government policies on taxes and spending (particularly for Social Security and Medicare), the federal budget deficit and debt would grow steadily over the next 30 years, with potentially significant negative effects on the federal budget and the U.S. economy.

According to CBO’s analysis, future spending growth will outpace modest increases in revenue over the next 30 years.  Much higher spending on Social Security and Medicare will reflect the aging U.S. population.  By 2046, programs for the 65 and over age group will account for almost half of all federal spending, excluding interest payments.  CBO states that health care costs will increase due to the aging population and new medical technologies and high personal income.

CBO presents it analysis primarily in terms of the budget deficit and federal debt share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In the absence of action to reduce the government’s spending and revenue imbalance, federal deficits as a share of GDP will rise significantly, CBO’s study shows.  In 2016, the deficit measured as a share of GDP will be about 3 percent (down from its high of almost 9 percent in 2009).  For the 2017-2026 period, the deficit’s annual average share of GDP would rise to 3,9 percent.  And, unless policy changes on spending and taxes are put in place, CBO estimates that the ratio would increase dramatically to over eight percent in 2037-2046.

At the end of 2007, the federal debt accounted for 35 percent of GDP.  Since then, that share as skyrocketed.  By the end of 2015, the federal debt reached 74 percent of GDP, the highest since World War II.  Between 2017 and 2016, CBO estimates that the average annual debt to GDP share will rise to 86 percent.  The average debt to GDP ratio will jump to 110 percent in 2027-2036 (exceeding the previous high of 106 in 1946) and reach 141 percent in 2037-2046.

While higher deficits resulting from this spending/revenue imbalance might boost demand and increase output in the short term, CBO warns that resulting high debt levels over the long term would have negative consequences on the budget and the economy.

Growing deficits and large debt levels would limit the government’s options on how to deal with domestic and foreign policy problems. High deficits and debt levels would restrict the government’s ability to borrow money and constrain spending needed to address exigencies.  In addition, higher deficits and long-term debt levels could have significant negative effects on the economy.  Lower national savings and income, constrained domestic investment, and increased interest costs could increase the chances of fiscal crises, according to CBO.

DoD moving forward with phased retirement

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

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The Department of Defense (DoD) is now set to begin accepting eligible civilian employees into the phased retirement program. Under the program, eligible federal employees approaching retirement are able continue working part time, while beginning retirement. 

Implementation of the Phased Retirement Program has taken longer than expected to implement in the federal government. The program was approved by Congress in July of 2012 and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued implementation rules in 2014. To date less than 100 employees, government wide, are participating.

For DoD, Acting DoD Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness Peter Levine issued a memorandum on June 21st that describes the policy, responsibilities, and procedures under which eligible employees can apply for and be accepted into the program.

Levine said the DoD program “is designed to assist DoD Components with the transfer of knowledge and continuity of operations on a short-term basis.” The program is voluntary and participation requires the approval of both the employee and an authorized Component official. Components can limit the number of employees as necessary. Levine said.

To be eligible for the program employees must have been in full employment status for the previous three years and be eligible for immediate retirement under either the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Employees subject to mandatory retirement, such as law-enforcement officers, firefighters, air traffic controllers, or nuclear materials couriers are not eligible for DoD’s phased retirement program.

The eligible employee receives income from a combination of part-time salary (50%) and partial annuity payments (50%). The phased retiree also accrues future retirement benefits proportional to the time they work. Phased retirees are expected to spend 20 percent of their time mentoring other employees.

The DoD directive-type memorandum requires DoD Components to have “written criteria in place that will be used to approve or deny applications for phased retirement before approving or denying such applications.” Employees that are eligible for phased retirement will complete Standard Form 3116 “Phased Employment/Phased Retirement Status Elections.”

Applications must be improved in writing and the phased retirement time period must be established in accordance with DD Form 3018 “Phased Retirement Request and Agreement.”

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (ASD(M&RA)) has overall policy responsibility for the DoD program and Component heads have approval authority.

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