Congress has a packed week ahead as it returns

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  • The House and Senate returned from their August recess Tuesday and faced a long agenda. Aid to Texas after Hurricane Harvey could end up on the bill to raise the debt ceiling, which the government will hit at the end of September. Federal flood insurance and the health insurance program for children must be re-authorized. Above all, Congress has just 12 working days to approve a fiscal 2018 budget.
  • President Donald Trump has filled out some key positions across the government. Trump announced his intention to nominate 42 executives to management roles. Among those named on Friday were Emily Murphy to be General Services Administration (GSA) administrator, Margaret Weicher to be deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Fred Nutt to be OMB controller. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Trump also nominated Jeff Tien Han Pon to be the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Pon was the deputy director for e-Government at OPM, where he stood up USAJOBS and HR Shared Services. He currently serves as the chief human resources and strategy officer for the Society for Human Resources Management. This is the president’s second nominee for OPM director. (White House)
  • Senior Navy officials are expected to face questions from Congress this week about two deadly collisions involving warships in the Asia-Pacific. Adm. Bill Moran, the vice chief of Naval operations and Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, the director of surface warfare are  set to testify before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Committee officials said they’re looking for answers on underlying problems that led the U.S.S. Fitzgerald and U.S.S. John McCain to collide with commercial vessels near Japan and Singapore in separate accidents just two months apart. Seven sailors were killed aboard the Fitzgerald; 10 aboard the McCain. (House Armed Services Committee)
  • More troops are officially heading to Afghanistan, but there’s no word on how many. The Defense Department is staying silent on the number of troops it’s sending into the sixteen year war. Defense Secretary James Mattis says the troops going to Afghanistan will be enablers and advisers.
  • Social Security’s inspector general said the agency is being held responsible for more than thirty-seven million dollars worth of improper payments to deceased veterans. Inconsistencies in death records between SSA and Veterans Affairs are to blame. The IG recommended the system be updated and increasing reporting. (Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General)
  • The Office of Personnel Management have set up an emergency leave transfer program. It lets federal employees donate unused annual leave to other employees impacted by Hurricane Harvey who need more time off. Impacted employees must apply in writing to their own agencies. Employees who want to donate time must also contact their own organizations. Individual agencies will be in charge of administering donated leave, and figuring out if they need more. (Federal News Radio)
  • Contracting officers supporting relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey received a little bit of a reprieve from some acquisition rules. The General Services Administration increased thresholds for micro-purchases, for the simplified acquisition of commercial items and for simplified leases. The goal is to make it easier for agencies contracting in support hurricane relief. In a memo to Senior Procurement Executives, GSA said it increased the micro-purchase threshold to $20,000 from $3,500 for civilian agencies and $5,000 for the Defense Department. GSA also upped the simplified acquisition threshold to $750,000 for non-commercial items and $13 million for commercial items. GSA said these threshold increases will remain in effect through Dec. 31. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal unions said they don’t know if a national council designed to advise the president on federal labor-management relations will continue. President Obama created the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations back in 2009. It’s set to end in September in 2017. Multiple federal unions say they’ve had no interaction with the Trump administration and aren’t sure if the council will continue. (Federal News Radio)