Did Trump administration circumvent ethics rules in EPA hirings?

In today's Federal Newscast, two senators are questioning how the Trump administration hired non-confirmed political appointees at the EPA and the Council on En...

  • Two lawmakers want an investigation into whether the Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental offices hired non-confirmed political appointees in a way that got around the Trump administration’s own ethics rules. Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote to the Government Accountability Office asking for a report on the various authorities being used to hire political appointees at the EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality. Carper and Whitehouse said EPA has yet to respond to a request for information from March. (Senate)
  • A review by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general found the department’s new consolidated training and performance management system is “a textbook definition of waste.” DHS started building the PALMS system in 2013 with the promise it would save $52 million by consolidating various HR IT systems. But the IG said it has fallen far short of those savings targets, and the department has spent at least $24 million on functionality that doesn’t meet its own operational standards. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Donald Trump is planning to address the nation tonight on the administration’s long-awaited strategy for the war in Afghanistan. The White House said Trump will speak to the country on Monday, at 9 p.m. EDT. Trump tweeted over the weekend that he had reached a decision, but he didn’t say what that was. Defense hawks in Congress have been pressing the White House and Pentagon for a strategy for months. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has vowed to include one in this year’s Defense authorization bill if the administration didn’t produce one of its own. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Donald Trump is moving forward with a plan to raise the stature of the military’s Cyber Command. The Pentagon said the White House has approved elevating U.S. Cyber Command to a full unified combatant command, putting it on par with the military’s other functional commands around the world. Since 2009, CYBERCOM has operated as a subcomponent of U.S. Strategic Command. Defense officials said the change would give cyber warfare issues a stronger voice throughout the military. For now, though, officials are putting off an even larger proposed change — splitting CYBERCOM from the National Security Agency. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Energy Department wants to renew the government’s application to use Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as a national nuclear waste storage repository. The 20-year effort was shuttered by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the Obama administration in 2011. Ed McGinniss, DoE’s top nuclear official, said money in the administration’s 2018 request would restart it. But now Senate Republicans aren’t so sure.
  • The Office of Government Ethics released its draft strategic plan, doubling down on past efforts like workforce development, modernization and enhancing efficiency. OGE also introduced some new goals like increasing public engagement. It also clarified the office’s mission, emphasizing prevention rather than enforcement. OGE is soliciting comments on the plan until Aug. 25. (Federal Register)
  • After a 40-year federal career and more than eight years in his current position, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell is retiring. Tidwell announced his last day on the job will be Sept. 1. During his tenure as chief, Tidwell focused on building a safe and inclusive agency and improving safety measures to better protect the lives of employees, especially firefighters. Tidwell began his career as a firefighter, then became district ranger before capping his career as chief in June 2009. (USDA)
  • Can the combination of humans and computers help predict the next foreign election, disease outbreak or recession? The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) wants to see. Through a new Hybrid Forecasting Competition or HFC, IARPA wants to improve the accuracy of geopolitical forecasting. Over the next four years, the HFC program will pit a variety of human-machine hybrids against each other in a series of competitions. The contests will try to predict real world events by combining human judgments with information from sources such as traditional news reporting, social media, and financial indicators. (IARPA)
  • The State Department’s Foreign Service is lacking diversity with non-white officers making up only 12 percent of the workforce. Secretary Rex Tillerson is trying to do something about that. He announced steps to expand where and how the Foreign Service recruits, in part, by expanding their footprint at minority-focused job fairs. Tillerson also called for State to interview at least one minority candidate for every open ambassador position going forward. (State Department)

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