- Federal news round-up: Artemis Mission 3 likely delayed, says GAO.
- Over 400k feds will be required to work in the office, at least partially, next year.
- White House injects funds into stalled high-speed rail projects in California.
In this week’s round-up of news from across federal agencies, we’re looking at a recent GAO report indicating the Artemis III mission is behind track, and the Biden administration approved $6 billion to help fund a high-speed railway out west. Also, we’ll check in on the current telework and “return-to-office” (RTO) mandates in place at certain agencies.
NASA Moon Mission Delayed
While it remains unclear if the Artemis II mission is still set to proceed on schedule, the GAO recently announced that the Artemis III mission, which was slated to blast off in 2025, probably won’t happen until 2027. The unmanned Artemis I mission was successful around this time last year after that first test flight’s launch endured a handful of setbacks. The Artemis II mission will take four astronauts to the lunar orbit, and also to the farthest point humans have ever been in space, but they will not land on the moon. It is tentatively scheduled for November 2024.
If you’re a federal employee or annuitant, you can’t afford to miss our no-cost webinars on your benefits, financial planning, and more!
As for the Artemis III mission, which would put people back on the lunar surface for the first time since the 1970s, it is being slowed down by issues with both the lunar lander, developed by SpaceX, and the lunar spacesuits from Axiom Space. The problem with the spacesuits involves meeting a NASA requirement that they’re able to provide 60 minutes of emergency life support capabilities. To quote a NASA associate, “Yes, the lander is absolutely important. We can’t go anywhere without it. But, we also can’t go anywhere without the suits.”
Bullet Trains to Los Angeles
The Biden Administration has okayed $6 billion in federal funds for two bullet train projects in California. The extra funds are only a fraction of the total cost, but it is enough to revive these two construction endeavors that have hit funding snags in the past. The one railway between San Francisco and Los Angeles had federal money pulled from the project by the previous president in 2019. There was $3.1 billion reinjected into that track and another $3 billion to fund construction of a 218-mile-long high-speed rail between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, NV.
DOJ and FDIC Return to Office Mandate
There are currently 16 agencies that an RTO mandate in place, 12 of which are already in effect. At the EPA, for example, over 8,200 feds are required to work on-site for 3 to 4 days every 2-week pay period. This went into effect this fall. The USDA’s mandate started in September and requires over 1,700 employees to work “50% of the time,” or 5 days every 2-week pay period. Starting in January, DOJ and FDIC will see their mandates activated at the start of 2024. Over 116,000 feds at the Justice Department will be mandated to work in the office 6 days over a 2 week pay period and the FDIC will see over 5,800 workers returning on-site for 3 days in a pay period. With these two agencies’ RTO mandates, there will then be over 400,000 federal employees working at least partially in the office. The FEMA and State Department also have RTO mandates but their effective dates are currently “to be determined.”
On Capitol Hill, Democrat and Republican representatives clashed over the federal workforce’s teleworking policies. GOP argument revolved around feds not being effective working from their “sofas” while Democrats argued equating teleworking to laziness is disrespectful to feds do hard and diligent work from their home offices. At the moment, 89% of feds have a remote work agreement in place with their agency and 40% of those telework 1 to 4 days per pay period.
Until Next Time,
**Written by Benjamin Derge, Financial Planner, ChFEBC℠ The information has been obtained from sources considered reliable but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Benjamin Derge and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize, or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors.