OSC whistleblower bill passes House

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

  • The Defense Department has moved ahead on phased retirement for its civilian employees. Peter Levine, acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said phased departures must have approval by both the employee and the bureau. Retirees must have received high performance ratings and give 20 percent of their time to mentoring successors. The new policy became effective yesterday. (Federal News Radio)
  • Several of the biggest renewable energy facilities in the country are on U.S. military bases. But the business deals needed to build them have been extremely complex. The Air Force is looking to simplify the process. It’s still in its early days, but the Air Force is exploring the possibility of buying its facility energy as a service — wrapping the complicated legal authorities it uses for solar farms, energy savings performance contracts and enhanced use leases into one long-term contract for a given base. Officials say the most likely vendor would be a combination of a local utility company and an energy service company. That partnership would handle negotiations with state regulators and manage everything from on-site solar arrays to on-base micro-grids and power poles, keeping in mind the military’s need to increase its independence from the public electric grid. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House has reauthorized the Office of Special Counsel for another five years. The legislation also improves OSC’s access to agency documents that it needs when it investigates whistleblower cases and expands OSC’s timeline for reviewing a specific case. The bill also adds more reporting requirements for OSC. The bill now heads to the Senate. (House Oversight Committee)
  • A petition on We the People calls on the White House to remove National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. The petition says Jarvis is failing to act on reports of sexual harassment within the service, and mishandling potential ethics violations. Those issues were brought up during a congressional oversight hearing in mid-June. It currently has more than 100 signatures out of the 100,000 needed for a White House response. (The White House)
  • Armed Services Committee staffers have responded to White House critiques of the 2017 defense authorization bills. House committee staff director Bob Simmons said the House’s unconventional way of funding the Defense Department was used in 2008. The Senate committee’s staff director Chris Brose said the reorganization of the Defense Department empowers the Secretary so he can better address global challenges. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department has said it’s starting to earn back trust and confidence from veterans and its employees. VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin said the agency’s trust score from veterans went up from 47 points at the end of fiscal 2015 to 57.5 points for the first half of 2016. Employee engagement is on the rise as well. Scores from the VA’s central office employees are up from 267 points to 313. Shulkin said the VA has also hired 28 new medical center directors. It had 35 vacancies among top leadership positions at VA hospitals just a few months ago. (Federal News Radio)
  • Fresh findings of patient wait time manipulation have been uncovered at the Veterans Affairs Department. Add the Houston VA medical center, and its nearby outpatient clinics, to those facilities reporting shorter wait times than patients actually experienced. That’s according to the latest findings by the VA inspector general. The IG said four in 10 appointments were rescheduled in the year ending June 2015. The system showed wait times of three days. The reality was 78 days. Management promises to fix it. (Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General)
  • Suspensions, debarments, and proposed debarments of federal contractors decline in fiscal 2015 compared to the previous year. The Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee said they fell by 3.7 percent in its annual report. Chairman David Sims said a rise in proactive engagement tools could be a reason for plateauing numbers. (USA.Gov)
  • The Labor Department recovers from a bad experience in the cloud. It plans to move to a federal shared service provider for financial management services by 2019. But in the meantime, Labor will modify its current set up and move away from using a shared services provider. Labor will directly contract with Booz Allen Hamilton under a three-year deal instead of paying the Transportation Department’s Enterprise Service Center and receiving operational support from Booz Allen. Labor announced June 17 in a sole source justification on FedBizOpp.gov that it would contract directly with the company under a new $74.2 million task order through the General Services Administration’s IT schedule. (FedBizOpps)