VA Secretary asks Congress for quicker firings

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

  • The Veterans Affairs Department wants to immediately fire a VA medical center employee who was caught watching pornography while with a patient. But current law prevents it from doing so. VA Secretary David Shulkin says 30 days is too long to wait to fire an employee. He’s asking Congress now to pass legislation that would let the department discipline employees more quickly. Accountability legislation passed the House, but hasn’t yet made it to the Senate. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • Twenty-two advocacy groups want General Services Administration Inspector General Carol Ochoa to review the agency’s recent decision on President Trump’s lease for the Old Post Office building. In a letter, they say GSA’s recent decision that Trump’s continued ownership of the property does not violate the lease has no legal basis. (Center for American Progress)
  • A new website from Customs and Border Protection helps make data of its activities more available. One of President Trump’s executive orders called for releasing more information on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. The new website contains statistics on apprehensions, admissibility, recidivism and arrests of “criminal aliens” at the border. According to the website, CBP has made over 170,000 apprehensions this year with over 250,000 enforcement actions from October 2016 to the end of January 2017. (Customs and Border Protection)
  • Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) reminds new leadership of their outstanding obligations for transparency. In a letter to 24 large agencies, Warner asks for an update on the implementation of the DATA Act, and what challenges stand in the way of the May 2017 roll out. The law calls for the standardization of federal spending data. (Federal News Radio)
  • Members of Congress and their staff are getting their mobile devices protected from cyber attacks. The Hill reports the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer has a new contract with the company Lookout Mobile. There will now be an application to identify threats and malicious apps. (The Hill)
  • The Education Department’s cybersecurity posture comes under scrutiny once again. House lawmakers are pressing Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos on how she plans to ensure her agency’s networks and data are secure from hackers. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members write to DeVos asking for details on what steps the agency is taking to close all 15 outstanding inspector general cyber recommendations. The committee says the IG has found problems ranging from the use of two-factor authentication to network encryption to specific system vulnerabilities. The letter is a followup from the November 2015 hearing on Education’s cyber posture. (House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • The Government Accountability Office’s annual review of the Defense Department’s Defense Acquisition System finds improvements have been made in some areas but DoD is missing key opportunities to reduce cost by increasing competition. GAO says most of the programs it assessed this year are not yet using a knowledge-based acquisition approach. (Government Accountability Office)
  • One of the military branches would like to keep one of its defining features. Military.com reports Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft says the service does not need to be reorganized under the Defense Department. Currently, the Coast Guard is the only military branch to fall under the Department of Homeland Security. Some members of Congress support the change however. Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Duncan Hunter says the change would better shield the service from potential spending reductions. (Military.com)
  • Military soldiers and eligible reserve and National Guard members can now manage group and family life insurance through a new online portal. The Defense and Veterans Affairs Department announce the activation of the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Online Enrollment System. DoD says it will make the system more efficient. It will be available for the Navy this month and the other branches later in the year. (Department of Defense)

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