Biden’s first budget ups cyber and tech spending; gives feds a 2.7% pay raise
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The Biden administration released its $6 trillion fiscal year 2022 budget proposal on Friday, including $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending across federal agencies.
The discretionary request seeks $769 billion on non-defense spending and $753 billion in defense programs. Of that, $715 billion is tabbed for the Department of Defense – essentially flat from 2021.
The proposal includes $58.4 billion in IT spending across civilian agencies. The aggregate figure for DOD IT spending was not broken out in the documents, but should eventually be posted to the federal IT dashboard. The FY2021 figure was $37.7 billion.
On the workforce side, the Biden administration is proposing a 2.7% pay raise for civilian feds. That matches the pay raise being funded in the DOD budget request.
The $58.4 million in civilian spending represents a 2.4% increase over 2021 estimates. Some big gainers include the Treasury Department with an $860 million increase over 2021, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, with a $734 million proposed increase over 2021 and the Department of Homeland Security with a $852 million proposed increase. The few decliners include NASA and the Department of Commerce.
The budget also includes a $500 million plus-up for the Technology Modernization Fund, which would make the total capitalization of TMF about $1.7 billion. The administration has been touting the revolving fund of no-year money as a vehicle for agencies to modernize legacy IT and shore up cybersecurity.
The proposal includes a request for $100 million for Department of Labor to develop state unemployment insurance IT solutions “that can be deployed in states to ensure timely and equitable access to benefits.” The proposal says this effort will “[set] the stage for broad changes to modernize the program.”
The Biden administration features plans to accelerate cloud adoption, noting how the use of such technologies “positioned federal agencies to convert to maximum telework during the COVID-19 pandemic” while “rapidly and proficiently enabling the continuity of their missions.”
The tech budget represents “a real commitment from the Biden administration that IT is fundamental to delivering on the Build Back Better agenda,” Matthew Cornelius, executive director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation, told FCW. “The increases at almost all agencies is an attempt to rectify the constant cuts that agencies saw in the previous administration.”
The administration is proposing a 2.7% average pay increase across the civilian federal workforce, although the proposal doesn’t parse how locality pay would be factored into that.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the proposed pay raise as “great progress towards the goal of competitive compensation for our federal workforce.” He also called on his colleagues to pursue his longtime goal of passing his bill that would give feds a 3.2% raise.
The request also gives insight into Biden’s federal workforce plans more broadly.
“After decades of under-investment in a modern-day workforce, a failure to partner with labor unions, and ongoing, unwarranted attacks on its independence, the civil service is in need of repair and rebuilding,” it reads.
Biden’s request calls on agencies covered by the Chief Human Capital Officers Act to participate in a new centralized, government-wide hiring assessment support team set to improve hiring outcomes, especially for technical and otherwise difficult-to-fill positions. It also calls on these agencies to “create and fund talent teams at the component levels.”
OPM is going to provide agencies with comprehensive guidance on hiring flexibilities and competitive hiring practices to “facilitate a talent surge into Government.” This will also include regulations that facilitate bringing back former feds by allowing agencies to rehire them “at a grade commensurate with the experience achieved while working outside of Government, rather than limiting such employees to the grade level where they were when they left.”
The budget would require agencies to revive their internship programs and include internships in workforce planning. The number of paid internships in government dropped from over 60,000 in 2010 to 4,000 in 2020, the budget says.
Biden is requesting a total of $197 million for the Office of Personnel Management, an increase of $37 million over last year’s funding. The budget also calls for $46 million for the Merit Systems Protection Board, a quasi-judicial agency that hears appeals from feds on agency personnel actions. That’s an increase of over $1.5 million. The Federal Labor Relations Authority, the agency that governs labor-management relations in the federal government, is slated for a little over $29.2 million, as compared to $26.6 million last year.
The White House is seeking $9.8 billion for cybersecurity funding to secure federal civilian agencies. The budget also includes an additional $500 million for the Technology Modernization Fund and $750 million to respond from the hacking campaign against SolarWinds.
The Biden budget cites the SolarWinds hack multiple times as justification for its cybersecurity-related requests, although it does not appear to mention the president’s recent executive order.
Civilian departments and agencies collectively are seeking $1.2 billion more for cybersecurity-related investments than they did in FY2021. Year over year, DHS is aiming for the largest agency increase, requesting roughly $300 million more than last year.