Tuesday federal headlines – February 2, 2016

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on the Federal Drive.

  • Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) have introduced legislation to clarify and protect certain due process rights of federal employees serving in sensitive positions. The bill would overturn a 2013 federal court decision that stripped many federal employees of due process rights to independent review of an agency decision removing them from a job on national security grounds. At least 200,000 DoD employees are designated as noncritical sensitive. (Eleanor Holmes Norton)
  • The Education Department’s chief information officer will face tough questioning today by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Lawmakers want more details about how Danny Harris, Education’s CIO, is protecting the agency’s systems. Committee members also want to know about Harris’s outside business interests and whether or not they were ethical. Education’s inspector general found Harris violated ethical or administrative policies. Harris said he made some bad judgement calls and has rectified any questionable behaviors. (House Oversight)
  • The third offset strategy may not be around as long as previously thought. An analyst from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said the Defense Department is only investing about $1 billion in its initiative to maintain U.S. military superiority in next year’s budget. After fiscal 2017 the third offset’s future is at the whim of the new presidential administration. The analyst also said DoD only plans to spend between $10 and $12 billion over the next few years on the strategy.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is leading a summit on mental health and preventing veteran suicide. The summit will bring together community partners, veteran service organizations, veterans and families. The summit will also invite clinical leaders in suicide prevention and mental health from the VA, the Defense Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The purpose of the summit is to share knowledge and determine clearer paths forward to preventing veteran suicide. (Appeal-Democrat)
  • The Defense Department’s new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental is holding a town hall this month to facilitate work with small business. The Innovation Unit was created as part of DoD’s third offset strategy to serve as a nexus between the department and Silicon Valley. DoD has been courting tech companies as a means of advancing the military’s technological superiority. DoD has also been trying to recruit talented workers in the tech business to come work for the government. (Defense Innovation Unit Experimental)
  • The Office of Personnel Management did a good job closing D.C.-area federal offices during Snowstorm Jonas. Results of a recent Federal News Radio survey showed workers were happy with OPM’s choice to keep federal employees off the roads, but survey takers said they wanted an earlier heads up from OPM about whether or not they would be getting a snow day. The late-night announcements make it tough to schedule child care, some said, while certain federal workers are already asleep by the time a decision is made. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agencies have until May 31 to send their plans for adding more rotational assignments among Senior Executive Service members to the Office of Personnel Management. OPM put out the first of its guidance on implementing the reforms in President Barack Obama’s executive order on the SES. It requires agencies with more than 20 SES members to come up with a two-year plan for rotation assignments. Rotations should last at least 120 days. (Federal News Radio)
  •  The Pentagon’s top weapons tester said the military has upped its game in defending against cyber attacks over the past year, but not enough systems are undergoing real-world tests. The shortfalls are part of an annual assessment by DoD’s office of operational test and evaluation. The report said the “red teams” the military uses to simulate attackers on military networks are understaffed and overworked. Besides that, the commanders in charge of many military exercises don’t include realistic cyber attacks as part of their training scenarios. Because of that, the report said, the military is at risk of “catastrophic” physical damage because of its cyber weaknesses. (Federal News Radio)

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