The infrastructure spending bill (HR-3684) that the House last week joined the Senate in passing contains new or additional funding for programs of numerous federal agencies and meanwhile would create at least one new entity, an Advanced Research Projects Agency—Infrastructure within the Transportation Department.
That agency, whose size is currently unknown, is to “support the development of science and technology solutions” to “overcome long-term challenges” and “advance the state of the art for United States transportation infrastructure.
However, it is to operate largely outside standard civil service rules for hiring—it could seek employees through private recruiting firms rather than usajobs.gov—and in setting salary levels—with discretion to set pay within a broad range rather than on the GS scale or other pay schedule.
The AFGE union and some members of Congress had objected to those provisions when the bill first came under consideration in the Senate during the summer, with the AFGE likening them to the Trump administration’s effort to create a separate “Schedule F” outside civil service rules for career federal positions involved in policy matters.
Among other provisions, the measure also:
* Provides $1.8 billion to address a backlog of for major medical facility leases at the VA; authorizes increases in the number of health professions residency positions at facilities; adds $268 million for education and training programs for VA health professionals; expands the VA’s existing authority to lease vacant or under-utilized buildings to organizations that provide services to veterans; and provides $150 million for the VA to assist the National Archives and Records Administration in digitizing records needed to process veterans’ claims for disability benefits.
* Provides $21 million in start-up money for the Office of the National Cyber Director in DHS, a recently created position tasked with coordinating cybersecurity policy and strategy but previously not funded.