House committee backs westward move for Interior employees

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  • Republican leaders on the House Natural Resources Committee have written to President Donald Trump in support of an Interior Department re-organization. Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and six of his colleagues from Western states urged the White House to strongly consider moving some Interior offices out of Washington and closer to the people they serve. They noted the government manages more than 600 million acres of land in the West, and with most decision-makers centered in Washington, they said Interior has lost touch with its constituency.  (House Natural Resources Committee)
  •  Federal experts contacted by Federal News Radio said the one-size-fits-all civil service personnel system has practically become a thing of the past. Instead, they noted more and more agencies are turning to alternative personnel systems as a solution to hiring, accountability or performance challenges. The Government Accountability Office last year counted 105 different hiring authorities, though most human capital specialists only use about 20 of them. Experts said the proliferation of alternative personnel systems is a sign that agencies are looking for a way out.  They advised the federal community look to state and local governments for ideas on how to tweak the current civil service system.   (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate Ethics Committee is expected to resume its investigation into Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called for an ethics probe just hours after a mistrial was announced yesterday in the New Jersey Democrat’s bribery and corruption case. The Menendez trial was the first in 36 years to involve a sitting senator facing federal bribery charges, the most serious of which carried a 20-year maximum prison sentence.      (The Hill)
  •  In what the Pentagon said was an error, the Defense Department (DoD)  official Twitter account on Thursday seemed to be calling for the Commander-in-Chief to resign yesterday. In a statement, DoD press operations director Rob Manning said a re-tweet was made by an authorized user of the official Pentagon account—  and that the same person “caught the error and quickly deleted it.” The statement did not mention the content, but the original tweet was on the topic of sexual harassment, saying President Donald Trump and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) should resign their posts, and that Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore
    (R) should exit the Alabama race.  (Federal News Radio)
  • The world’s biggest health insurer has proposed a way to help push back the tide of the opioid addiction crisis. The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed a rule it said would cut drug prices for those on Medicare Part D. It would let formularies add generic drugs mid-year, and let providers use cheaper, bio-similar drugs as if they were generic. CMS estimated five year savings of $195 million. Comments can be made until Jan.16. (CMS)
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said most agencies have improved their risk assessment process to reduce improper payments. Agencies are statutorily required to perform risk assessment after it was reported that more than $1.2 trillion in such payments were made governmentwide between 2003 and 2016. GAO studied 24 agencies and found most were following proper procedures to reduce risk of such payments, but targeted NASA specifically for not reviewing all of its programs. (GAO)
  • The General Services Administration (GSA) said it is pinning its hopes on an emerging technology to facilitate faster turn-around times for federal contracts. Under the FASTLane program, vendors can now get a GSA schedule contract in 29 days, down from 119. Now, GSA said it wants to see if the use of blockchain technology can cut that time to ten days. GSA said it is testing this concept by putting the financial analysis of the company and the pre-negotiated memorandum in a distributed ledger. GSA also said it has redesigned user interfaces so that industry only has to enter the information once instead of logging into multiple systems. It then runs microservices to automate the processes and complete the schedule award.  (Federal News Radio)