Kelly to conduct top-down review of DHS leadership, organization

In today's Top Federal Headlines, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly wants to improve personnel systems for DHS workers to build on improving morale.

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

  • Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will conduct a top to bottom review of DHS’ organization and leadership. His new deputy, Elaine Duke, will take the lead on improving the personnel systems for border patrol agents, immigration officers and DHS employees overall. Kelly said employee morale is already improving since leadership pledged to not hinder employees from doing their jobs. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
  • The clock is ticking for the White House to fast-track the repeal of some federal regulations. Under the 1996 Congressional Review Act, Congress can expedite the repeal of agency regulations by a simple majority vote. But that window closes at the end of April. The Trump administration has signed off on repealing 11 Obama administration regulations, including one that would change how federal contractors with NASA, the Defense Department and the General Services Administration report workers’ pay. (White House)
  • Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) asked the Government Accountability Office to review the President Donald Trump’s federal hiring freeze. They cited a 1982 GAO study of hiring freezes, which found they do little to control staff levels or spending. The senators are worried the problems GAO found earlier would repeat themselves. (Federal News Radio)
  • The new background investigation bureau’s IT environment is starting to come into focus. The Defense Information Systems Agency released more details on its acquisition strategy to build out the technology for the National Background Investigation Bureau. DISA issued a request for quotations yesterday for a Requirement Traceability Tool. The vendor will store in the database its research of existing commercial and government technologies to create the NBIB’s IT systems. In mid-March, DISA released an RFI for agile software development and integration support. DISA said it was testing out several existing tools that would need to be brought together in the NBIB. (FedBizOpps)
  • Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen said his agency is looking at how to “responsibly and reasonably” adjust to $239 million in budget cuts, but it was  going to be tough. During a speech at the National Press Club, Koskinen said squeezing the already depleted agency won’t work, and that IT modernization and customer service and security would suffer. (Federal News Radio)
  • The military service chiefs said a 2017 yearlong continuing resolution would be detrimental to the Defense Department. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley called Congress’ failure to pass a budget on time for the last eight years professional malpractice. Miley, along with the other three chiefs of the military services, laid out the consequences of congressional inaction. (Federal News Radio)
  • Last year, Congress rejected a Pentagon proposal to make the promotion system for military officers more flexible. But the Navy is trying again. The Navy wants the flexibility to change exactly when its officers move up to the next rank. Rather than promoting them based on strict schedules, a requirement that’s been in place since 1981, it wants to move its best performers to the front of the line, potentially promoting them ahead of peers with more seniority. Congress said “no” to the proposal last year, saying the Pentagon needs to come up with a more comprehensive plan that also takes into account its modern-day recruiting and retention needs.
  • Congress moved to fix a troubled program at the Veterans Affairs Department. The House passed the Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act. It cleared the Senate earlier this week unanimously. Once enacted, the bill would extend the program past August while speeding payments to private health care providers. Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe said the bill gives VA and the Trump administration time to work out program improvements. VA Secretary David Shulkin had urged its passage. (House Veterans Affairs Committee)
  • The General Services Administration decided exchanging the Labor Department headquarters for a new building or long-term office space was not feasible. After putting out a solicitation in December, GSA said it canceled the request for proposal and plans to head into a different direction. GSA said an exchange concept wouldn’t provide a good of enough return for the department or the government. (Federal News Radio)

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