New bill gives agencies more options to hire new talent

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

  • Agencies would get more direct hiring authorities to bring on new employees under the Flexible Hiring Act. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) introduced the bill, which lets agencies offer higher pay rates for positions in mission critical occupations. It also lets agencies offer bonuses to help retain current employees or move to another location. (U.S. Senate)
  • Serious breaches have put cybersecurity plans of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation under the spotlight. Members of the House technology committee said FDIC officials aren’t cooperating as they investigate a series of data breaches. In two cases, employees downloaded sensitive information to personal USB devices. (House.gov)
  • Another major IT contract is stalled by protests. Twenty-three vendors are protesting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ $25 billion IT services contract called SPARC. The protests come after CMS awarded 27 large businesses and 54 small firms a spot in its major IT services contract in early June. Under the Strategic Partners Acquisition Readiness Contract or SPARC, CMS will issue task orders across 10 functional categories, including concept and planning, test and development and software development services. GAO has until mid-October to decide on the protests. (Government Accountability Office)
  • Rigid requirements may be holding back the Defense Department. That’s according to William Roper, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office. He said overly detailed program requirements sometimes prevent DoD from realizing the benefits. Roper’s office works on re-purposing new commercial technologies for military use. He said flexible requirements on projects can help save money or deliver better systems to the warfighter. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Coast Guard said it’s the first to achieve full operating capability on its insider threat program. Rear Adm. Robert Hayes, Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Intelligence, said it earned high praise from the task force. The Coast Guard is working with other agencies to share its best practices on implementing their own programs. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments said their electronic health records are finally interoperable with one another, but Congress isn’t so sure. The two departments certified back in April that they’d met a congressional mandate for full health record interoperability. But senators in charge of approving VA’s budget said the software the two departments are using missed the mark. It only transmits text between DoD and VA — not images like X-rays and CT scans — and can’t perform sophisticated data analytics. Lawmakers told VA on Wednesday that they can expect new legislation reflecting what Congress actually means by interoperability. (Federal News Radio)
  • An amendment to the House Interior Appropriations bill would give an extra $10 million to the EPA Inspector General. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced the bill, which moves that money from EPA’s Environmental Project and Management fund to its OIG. Chaffetz praised the EPA for the good work its IG has done in recent years despite yearly budget cuts. (House.gov)
  • Seventeen fiscally conservative groups lobbied Congress to avoid a House plan to take money from the overseas contingency operations fund and put it in the base budget to pay for extra troops and military pay raises. They said that tactic sets up an unnecessary budget crisis for the next president by drying up the wartime fund next April.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration will live to fight another day. Two days before the FAA’s authority expires, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize it. The House passed a similar bill on Monday. Ambitious plans by Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) to reorganize the FAA and privatize air traffic control operations have evaporated. The bill includes both goodies and restrictions for the drone industry. The re-authorization, now ready for the president to sign, is for one year. (Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee)