Many of the issues and initiatives that featured prominently in 2019 have the potential to carry over into the new year. Here are some of the major sticking points feds should keep an eye on:
Management + Budget
Longtime capital-residing agencies and offices will likely find themselves pressed to move in the coming year, as the Trump administration pursues a policy that looks to get more federal jobs in other parts of the country. The press has already resulted in the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management and two U.S. Department of Agriculture research agencies, and some members of Congress whose districts could stand to profit from an influx of federal jobs are likely to encourage the initiative. Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., have already introduced legislation to make more of those moves happen.
IT + Cloud
2019 was a big year for the federal government in cloud computing. The Office of Management and Budget released its “Cloud Smart” strategy, an update on the Obama administration’s “Cloud First” strategy. In 2020, look for agencies to continue to migrate to the cloud and shut down data centers in a big push to modernize. Several agencies have also put out solicitations this year for enterprise clouds to be built in coming years. Another big question in 2020 is how Pentagon components will decide what to migrate to the DoD’s newly awarded JEDI cloud, which has been marred in controversy for two years and has captured the attention of other agencies.
Online shopping for government looks likely to be a real possibility for agencies sooner rather than later with the General Services Administration planning a speedy award-to-rollout of the prototype e-marketplace in early 2020. If all goes to plan, agency acquisition shops will get more visibility into what the agency is buying, whether it meets certain requirements and how that stacks up with other agencies. And agency purchase cards could have far fewer uses as a result. For the rest of the federal workforce, it may become that much easier to get that order of pens or staplers their office has been needing.
The fight over President Donald Trump’s union-targeting executive orders is far from over and expect 2019 to be full of challenges to the agency implementation of those orders. A federal appeals court ruled that the district court did not have jurisdiction to decide on the legality of the orders but did not discount the merits of the unions’ case against them. The unions will have to decide by the end of the year whether to push the case up to the Supreme Court for a decision, but in the meantime expect to see employee unions take their individual agencies to the Federal Labor Relations Board to argue that their enforcement of the orders violates civil service law.
The government will continue to grapple with its cybersecurity workforce shortage in 2020. There are some reskilling programs underway but are relatively small-scale. Watch to see what the Office of Management and Budget does with its Cyber Reskilling Academy, which has graduated two cohorts of 25 people. OMB says it wants to expand to a larger group, but the Office of Personnel Management’s general hiring schedule has generally kept the graduates from being hired into new roles. OMB has said it’s working with OPM to solve this problem. But one problem remains: the workforce shortage is in the thousands. Without a larger expansion, which will require more resources, it will continue to be a small-scale solution for a significant problem.