Congress increases use of earmarks in 2017

  • Congress racked up $7 billion in earmarks in fiscal 2017. The Citizens Against Government Waste’s 2017 Pig Book, counted 163 earmarks in 2017, compared to 123, worth $5 billion in 2016. This year’s include $10 million for high energy cost grants at the Agriculture Department, and more than $1 billion for health and disease research at the Defense Department. (Citizens Against Government Waste)
  • President Donald Trump announced more nominations for key leadership posts. He wants Daniel Craig to be deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Trump also tapped Tony Kurta to serve as principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, a position he’s been serving in an acting capacity since January. (The White House)
  • The White House has settled on a new candidate to be the next secretary of the Army. Mark Esper is the Trump Administration’s third pick for Army secretary. The president’s first two choices for the job both withdrew their names from consideration after being nominated earlier this year. Esper is currently the top lobbyist for Raytheon, one of the Pentagon’s largest Defense contractors. Before that, he was an Army officer who served in the first Gulf War and a senior staffer on Capitol Hill, including as the top policy adviser for the House Armed Services Committee. (Federal News Radio)
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is calling on Tom Bowman to be his number two at the department. Bowman served in the Marines, held senior leadership positions at VA, and directed the majority staff on the Senate VA Committee. He says restoring veterans’ trust, and mending the disconnect between VA headquarters and employees would be his top priorities. (Federal News Radio)
  • The number two at the State Department John Sullivan told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee there is currently no intention to fold the U.S. Agency for International Development into the State Department. Senators from both parties expressed concern over the idea. Sullivan said the department is exploring the possibility but no decisions have been made. (Federal News Radio)
  • Not one but nearly a dozen Veterans Affair Department-related bills cleared a House committee. Who says bipartisanship is dead? The House Committee on Veterans Affairs cleared 11 bills with support from both parties. Among them is one called the Forever GI Bill, which would eliminate the 15-year expiration date on education benefits. Six of the bills would affect procurement, accountability and care delivery by the VA. Another would boost veteran-owned companies’ participation in federal strategic sourcing. (House Veterans Affairs Committee)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked the Homeland Security Department to issue a binding operational directive requiring agencies to implement technology to protect against fake emails being sent out in their name. Wyden wrote to DHS asking for an expansion of the use of the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance or DMARC standard. The Oregon Democrat said the Social Security Administration, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation already implemented DMARC, which lets the organizations quarantine fake email messages. Wyden also wants DHS to add DMARC to its agency vulnerability scans and for the General Services Administration to set up a central system to receive DMARC reports. (Sen. Ron Wyden)
  • Air Force civilian workers are now eligible for phased retirement. The program allows civilians to work part-time and take in some of their retirement annuity. Those using the program will use some of their time to mentor younger civilians. It lasts for a year with an option to extend another year. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Personnel Management awarded three task orders to Tribal Tech and its subcontractor Global Impact to administer marketing functions for the Combined Federal Campaign. The goal is to streamline all marketing for the campaign under one entity and make the program more efficient. The contractors will be implementing the national marketing campaign for all zones. (Tribal Tech)

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