How Government Workforce Policies and Programs Support the Most Vulnerable

With nearly three million people in the federal workforce, the government has to be prepared to support employees with a wide variety of needs. With a workforce that resembles the population as a whole, the policies that the government puts in place can be used as an example for private sector companies as well as for organizations supporting our nation's more vulnerable populations.

The following three programs illustrate the ways the government is supporting its workforce and citizens when they are in vulnerable situations. Continue reading

Grading the FAFSA Roll-Out

The Department of Education underwent a complete overhaul of its Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online system to improve the user experience. The existing form consisted of 108 questions, and the Department saw that many applicants were abandoning the process out of frustration and confusion.

The FAFSA Simplification Act was passed in 2020. The act helped fund the work needed to simplify the form and update how aid was calculated. The system rolled out in December 2023, more than a year later than expected and at the height of college application season. While the new system did reduce the number of questions to a maximum of 36 and the intake of 3.1 million forms in the first month alone, the rollout has been marred by some glaring issues that have made the customer experience worse, not better, for many, already stressed college-bound students. Continue reading

Developing an AI Training Plan for the Government Workforce

In talking about AI, there is a lot of discussion about "training the models"--feeding large amounts of data into an algorithm and then examining the results to ensure they are accurate. Once the models are deployed, the training does not stop for the models, and even more importantly, for its users.

A study from Deloitte estimates that generative AI could help boost productivity tenfold. However, this jump in efficiency will only be realized if AI and its outputs are being used correctly. Working with AI and AI-generated content requires a different set of skills that include critical thinking, algorithmic understanding, data analysis, deeper domain knowledge, cyber/data hygiene, and more. Continue reading

Climate Disasters Have Unequal Effects in Communities

Severe weather events are on the rise. In fact, the U.S. set a new record for billion-dollar climate disasters in 2023. Extreme weather events do not discriminate. Hurricanes, fires, and tornadoes hit wealthy and poor areas equally. However, the recovery in those areas is not as equitable.

Realizing the Power of Power

A study found that low-income communities had to wait longer for power to be restored following hurricanes. The study found that a "1-decile drop in socioeconomic status in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's social vulnerability index was associated with a 6.1% longer outage on average." Continue reading

Government Balancing the Pros and Cons of Return to Office

In the fall of 2023, the Biden Administration encouraged cabinet secretaries to ramp up the required in-office time for workers. This January, the goal was for more than 400,000 federal employees to be required to be in the office for two or three days per week. The move to more in-person time varies widely across government, with DoD and Intelligence agencies leading the way due to the sensitive nature of their work. When not required due to the nature of the work, the push for in-person staffing in civilian agencies is driven by the desire for tangible and intangible benefits. Policies across defense and civilian agencies are being helpfully tracked by Federal News Network.

Better Use of Office Space

The Government Accountability Office found that, on average, 17 federal agencies use 25% or less of their headquarters office space. This raised calls for setting benchmarks for federal office space utilization, though what that benchmark should be, is up for debate. One line was drawn in the sand with The Utilizing Space Efficiently and Improving Technologies (USE IT) Act, requiring all government office buildings to be at least 60 percent occupied. While it passed the House, additional debate will take place over appropriate occupancy and usage measurements. In the meantime, the White House has proposed devoting $425 million next year to create a real estate optimization program to reorient federal buildings around current space needs and expedite disposal of unneeded buildings. Reimagining how the government uses space impacts how the federal workforce will work. Continue reading