Zinke sends recommendations for national monuments to White House

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  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended potential boundary changes for some national monuments. In April, President Donald Trump asked him to review 27 monuments the president described as federal overreach. Zinke said he is recommending changes to a “handful” of sites, including unspecified boundary adjustments, and suggested some monuments are too large. (Associated Press)


  • Congress is turning up the heat on the State Department for its potential plans to reorganize. The State Department’s rumored plan to merge or get rid of its cyber coordinator office may get blocked by Congress. House Democratic lawmakers filed an amendment to the State’s fiscal 2018 appropriations bill that would forbid the agency from using any funds to close down the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues or to merge it with any other office. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who authored the amendment, also sent a letter to Secretary Rex Tillerson in July urging him to rethink his reorganization plans. (House.gov)


  • The National Archives pledged to digitize and make available 500 million pages of records by fiscal 2020. It also wants to fulfill 93 percent of customer requests within the promised amount of time. The goals are part of the archives’ latest draft strategic plan for fiscal 2018 through 2022. (U.S. National Archives)


  • Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) wants to know what the Pentagon is doing about improper payments. McCaskill specifically asked Defense Secretary James Mattis how the Defense Department is tracking improper payments. DoD’s Inspector General found the Pentagon made $1 billion in improper payments last year. (Sen. Claire McCaskill)


  • Phil Sparks, co-director of the Census Project, said the Census Bureau needs full funding if it hopes to complete an accurate and newly digitized 2020 count. Sparks warned if the 2020 count reverts to a pen and paper format, the price tag would rise by $5 billion. The bureau requested $800 million for fiscal 2018. (Federal News Radio)


  • Social Security is staggering under its workload of disability claims appeals. For people turned down twice, it now takes an average of nearly 20 months to get a hearing. It takes longer than two years in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Buffalo, New York; and Philadelphia. The backlog of cases awaiting a hearing has ballooned to more than a million, from 700,000 in 2010. The Birmingham, Alabama office has the single largest backlog, at nearly 13,000 cases. (Social Security Administration)


  • One company filed a bid protest against the Veterans Affairs Department for picking Cerner Corporation to overhaul its electronic health record. CliniCorp International said VA improperly awarded the contract and avoided the competitive bidding process. Cerner will implement the same EHR the Defense Department is developing. VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a speech to the American Legion, the decision “just makes sense” after years of debate and dozens of studies on the topic. (Law360)


  • While many have supported new accountability laws pertaining to Veterans Affairs Department workers, the Project on Government Oversight is worried they’ll be used to run over employees’ due process rights. POGO asked members of congressional VA committees to pay particular attention to the case of Brian Hawkins. The former D.C. Medical Hospital Director was fired for mismanagement but granted a stay by the Merit Systems Protection Board. (Project on Government Oversight)


  • For the first time ever, the nation’s biggest veterans organization named a woman as its national commander. Denise Rohan formally took over as the American Legion’s top official during its annual convention in Reno yesterday. She is an Army veteran who’s been active with the veterans service organization since 1984. In her acceptance speech, she lauded a new congressional overhaul of the VA disability claims appeals process, but said Legion members also need to step up their support for the organization’s programs that help veterans submit their claims in the first place. (American Legion)

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