House committee to examine federal agencies’ use of private jets and military aircraft

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  • A congressional committee will now be looking into federal agencies’ use of private jets and military aircraft, after reports that some secretaries have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on official travel. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent letters to 24 agencies asking how often political appointees take government-owned aircraft for personal use or private planes for official use. The letter comes after reports that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took over $400,000 worth of charted flights since taking office. (House Oversight and Government Reform)
  • The Office of Personnel Management has its special solicitation for federal employees to donate to survivors of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and now Maria. The solicitation lets feds administer and collect donations for hurricane survivors outside of the Combined Federal Campaign. The solicitation now ends Oct. 13. OPM also extended its Emergency Transfer Federal Leave Program. Federal employees can now also donate unused leave to their colleagues impacted by Maria. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
  • Hurricane response efforts continue at the Small Business Administration as well. James Rivera, the associate administrator for SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance, told Congress the agency has approved nearly $500 million in disaster loans for Hurricane Harvey victims. SBA will also be opening disaster recovery centers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as soon as possible. (Federal News Radio)
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) wants answers on oversight of agencies’ grant awards. She sent a letter to four large agencies, including USDA and HHS, asking how they’ve gone about implementing Government Accountability Office recommendations around federal grant awards. The government spends about $600 billion on grants each year. (Sen. Claire McCaskill)
  • Another long-time federal technology executive is calling it a career. Larry Gross, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s chief information officer, announced yesterday he is retiring in January, after 40 years of federal and military service. An FDIC spokeswoman confirmed Gross’s decision to leave after almost two years at the agency. The spokeswoman said Howard Whyte, the FDIC’s chief information security officer, will serve as acting CIO starting Oct. 1. Additionally, the spokeswoman said Noreen Padilla, the current deputy director of the Division of Information Technology, will serve as acting CISO. Gross will assist in the transition until his retirement. (Federal News Radio)
  • That big hack of the Securities and Exchange Commission? It shouldn’t have been a surprise. Government Accountability Office auditors have been warning the SEC about its lax cybersecurity. They said last September, 11 of 58 recommendations for better access and security controls over its systems hadn’t been implemented. It was a month earlier that the breach of the EDGAR system had occurred, but not been discovered. GAO said this past July, it found 15 new control deficiencies. (Government Accountability Office)
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin wants more say in hiring the 1,000 additional mental health professionals VA needs for its suicide prevention efforts. Shulkin asked the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to give more direct hire authorities for all health professionals, not just medical center directors. Shulkin also said cuts to VA’s recruitment and retention budget is making it more difficult to hire new talent. (Federal News Radio)
  • Somewhat good news from Secretary Shulkin, he doesn’t see VA running out of money for the Choice program fund early. The Associated Press reports VA may run out of Choice funding as early as December or as late as March. Congress gave VA about $2 billion in emergency funding to keep it going. Shulkin said the plan was always to use that money for six months to give Congress more time. VA is spending about $280 million a month on Choice. (Federal News Radio)
  • After more than a year of study, the Army said the battlefield IT network it has is not the one it needs. Service leaders asked Congress on Wednesday for permission to reallocate half a billion dollars in 2018 funding, canceling some programs and restructuring some of the others that make up its tactical network. Among the most significant changes: a cancellation of new spending on the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical. The Army has already spent $6 billion on that program and has consistently described it up until now as the “backbone” of its tactical network. (Federal News Radio)

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