Senators hope to help Veterans Affairs fill thousands of open positions

In today's Federal Newscast, two Senators introduce legislation to the Veterans Affairs Department address its 45,000 vacancies.

  • Two senators have introduced legislation to help the Veterans Affairs Department better fill its 45,000 vacancies. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced the Better Workforce for Veterans Act to give VA more funding and flexibility to fill open regional leadership positions. The bill would also require VA to survey departing employees to find out why they’re leaving. There are 38,000 vacant positions responsible for delivering front-line health care. (Senate Veterans Affairs Committee)
  • The Defense Department wants Congress to raise military pay by 2.1 percent next year. The Pentagon sent Congress a list of proposals for the 2018 defense authorization bill. Among them are extensions in bonus pay for health care workers and nuclear officers. The bill also outlines plans for closing bases in 2021. (Federal News Radio)
  • DoD has added another resource for military victims of sexual assault. The Pentagon launched an online educational program to help those who experienced an incident prior to joining the service. The program, titled Building Hope and Resiliency: Addressing the Effects of Sexual Assault, includes coping mechanisms and information on where to get more support. The Pentagon estimates about 10 percent of total service-member-victim reports involved incidents that occurred prior to military service. (Department of Defense)
  • The Air Force grounded its F-35 fleet at a major training base after another example of problems with oxygen systems onboard military jets. Over the last five weeks, the Air Force said there have been a total of five incidents at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, in which pilots suffered symptoms of hypoxia, usually evidence that they’re not getting enough oxygen. In each case, backup systems kicked in and the pilots were able to land safely. The Air Force had similar problems with pilot hypoxia with the F-22 fighter five years ago. Meanwhile, the Navy put restrictions on its fleet of T-45 training aircraft while it investigates problems with that jet’s oxygen system. (Air Force)
  • Agency progress in reforming the management and oversight of information technology has stalled. The fourth version of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act scorecard released today showed the overall scores of 20 of 24 agencies stayed the same or dropped since December. Only four agencies’ grades improved, including the U.S. Agency for International Development which earned the first-ever ‘A’ grade on the FITARA scorecard. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Center for Data Innovation has recommended to Congress the adoption of a permanent open data policy.  Policy analyst Joshua New said the ideas in its latest report have already been proposed or debated, and can be solved through legislation. Other ideas included requiring corporate data transparency and addressing the LGBT data gap. This is the center’s second list of data innovation recommendations. (Federal News Radio)
  • GSA’s difficult week continued with two executives resigning. The top executives at the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service announced they are leaving government on June 24. Tom Sharpe, the FAS commissioner, and Kevin Youel Page, the FAS deputy commissioner, decided to step down less than a week after GSA announced it would make major changes to the makeup of the acquisition service. Last week, GSA said it would merge the Technology Transformation Service into FAS and name a new commissioner, who would be a political appointee. Sharpe said he will retire. Youel Page didn’t say what his next step will be. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Government Ethics has reminded agency ethics officers of the new threshold for reporting gifts, reimbursements, and travel expenses. OGE has raised the threshold for free attendance to a widely attended gathering from $375 to $390. Any gifts or reimbursements from a single source worth more than that have to be reported. (Office of Government Ethics)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has given a clue to how the Trump administration will manage land designated as nation monuments. Zinke recommended shrinking the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah from the 1.5 million acres designated by the Obama administration. President Donald Trump called for a review back in April. Zinke said hindering multiple uses on such a large area is not the best use of the land. Public comment on Zinke’s decision is open through July 10. (Department of the Interior)

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