Wednesday federal headlines – March 30, 2016

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

  • Health and Human Services has gotten a new assignment from the President. As they often do, this presidential initiative means work for selected agencies. At a conference in Atlanta, President Barack Obama outlined several measures to curb heroin and prescription opiate addiction. The Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration has a new $11 million grant program to administer. HHS headquarters issued new proposed rules for doctors prescribing opiate alternatives, and for the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program. (White House)
  • New Army soldiers may have to go through longer basic training. ArmyTimes reports the branch may want to add more time so it can focus on critical thinking and increasing trainees’ physical fitness. However, Army officials are also looking at rearranging events within the current length of time. Right now, basic training lasts around 10 weeks. Last October, the Army introduced a series of tests all new soldiers must pass in order to graduate. (Army Times)
  • Representatives from three contracting trade associations met with Defense Secretary Ash Carter to discuss DoD’s plan for upcoming acquisition reform in Congress. Bloomberg Government reports the Professional Services Council, the National Defense Industrial Association and the Aerospace Industries Association sent people. Carter held the meeting to lay out his priorities and reassure industry their concerns are being heard. (Bloomberg Government)
  • It was a good day for public sector unions yesterday. The Supreme Court did not overturn a decision requiring non-union members to pay fees to cover the costs of contract negotiations. President of the American Federation of Government Employees J. David Cox praised the decision saying a decision to overturn would have placed an unfair burden on union members. (PR Media)
  • A former Navy officer gets two years in prison for accepting bribes from food vendors in Afghanistan. Justice officials said Donald Bunch received $25,000 in bribes while working at the Humanitarian Assistance Yard at Bagram Airfield. He was responsible for selecting vendors to replenish food and supplies at the base for emergency humanitarian efforts. (Justice Department)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is looking at special hiring procedures the government uses during unusual circumstances. OPM will study excepted service hiring authorities for various departments. Participation in the study could range anywhere from submitting written policy to providing case files that document a special hiring process. OPM will contact the agencies it plans to study. Most of the work will be done off site. Most recently OPM issued a direct-hire authority that allows certain agencies to quickly hire experts to deal with the Zika virus.
  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter wants to add responsibilities to the Joint Staff. But that doesn’t mean the number of staff members will grow. JCS Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said the Joint Staff will make up for it by shedding unnecessary tasks. He says efforts like veterans outreach and family readiness are not what the Joint Staff should be focused on. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board wants industry help strengthen its cybersecurity and risk management practices. The Board said it’s looking at companies like T. Rowe Price and Fidelity for their best practices. The study should be done by mid-May. The Board’s Office of Enterprise Risk Management is setting up a training program for the agency’s employees. The goal is to get them to think more about risk and embed it into the everyday decision-making and culture. (Federal News Radio)
  • OMB plans to ban most new contracts for mobile devices and services and wants to know what agencies and industry think about that. As Federal News Radio first reported in January, OMB’s new draft mobile device and services policy will try to bring most contracts under a governmentwide vehicle run by GSA. Agencies must develop plans to transition from their current contracts to the new governmentwide contract by August. OMB said agencies then have until Sept. 2018 to only use the new mobile device and services solution. (Federal News Radio)