The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.
In today’s Top Federal Headlines, IRS leaders said budget cuts have made hiring and hanging on to employees a difficult task.
The IRS has lost about 17,000 employees since 2010. According to the 2016 Internal Revenue Services Data Book, the tax agency ended fiscal 2016 with about 74,000 permanent employees. Agency leaders said budget cuts make recruiting and retaining difficult. The White House has proposed $239 million in cuts to the IRS for fiscal 2018. (Internal Revenue Service)
The Commerce Department’s FirstNet program has picked AT&T to build the nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders. Under the 25-year agreement, Commerce will pay AT&T $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the build out of the network. AT&T will then invest $40 billion to build, deploy, operate and maintain the high-speed connections. (FirstNet)
The Transportation Command’s Gen. Darren McDew said civilian cyber networks need more security to make the national ones better. TRANSCOM uses civilian businesses to transport military goods, but the cybersecurity of some of those businesses is not always good enough. McDew said companies and the government should look into the issue. (Federal News Radio)
GAO has found OPM may have paid too much for identity protection services. The decision by Congress to require the Office of Personnel Management to offer the 21 million federal employees and retirees affected by the 2015 massive data breach 10 years and $5 million in liability insurance may have unintended consequences. The Government Accountability Office found in a new report issued yesterday that this level of insurance coverage is likely unnecessary. Auditors said claims paid rarely exceed a few thousand dollars. GAO also said the benefits could unnecessarily increase costs, mislead consumers about the benefits of the coverage and create an unwarranted escalation of coverage amounts in the marketplace. (Government Accountability Office)
IRS managers have concluded that one of their online tools isn’t worth the cybersecurity risk. It’s called the Data Retrieval Tool, used by college students to apply for financial aid by way of the Education Department. Commissioner John Koskinen said the link has been disabled, until the agency can improve its security. It won’t be available for the current application cycle. Koskinen said thieves somehow used the tool to obtain indentities and federal student aid fraudulently. (Education Department)
The Defense Department has given the Navy an exception from the governmentwide hiring freeze so it can continue to hire shipyard workers. But officials said staff shortages in those facilities are a long-term problem. The Navy has hired more than 16,000 shipyard workers over the last five years, but it’s still about 5,000 short of the people it said it needs to handle routine ship maintenance — and half of the civilians on the Navy’s payroll have less than five years of experience. Since public shipyards can’t keep up, the Navy has turned to private contractors to maintain the fleet, but that hasn’t worked in every case. Due to a lack of funds to pay for those contracts, at least one of the Navy’s nuclear submarines will be parked at a pier until 2019 before it even enters a private shipyard.
The Office of Special Counsel resolves six cases involving employment claims for National Guard members and reservists. One was the case of a Marine Corps reservist who had to wait several years for re-employment at the Homeland Security Department after a year of active duty, OSC convinced DHS to give him a retroactive hiring date. Another got a Veterans Affairs nurse paid military leave after she was marked “absent without leave” for a week of reserve duty. (Office of Special Counsel)
More important personnel announcements from the White House. President Trump has officially nominated Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan to take the role permanently. Also, John Ullyot has been named as the new assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. He previously served as Director of Communications for the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. (White House)
A bipartisan group of senators wants to give veterans a boost to their disability benefits. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and ranking member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) have introduced the Veterans Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act. The COLA would be the same amount that Social Security recipients get. It would go into effect Dec. 1. (Senate Veterans Affairs Committee)