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Two Democratic senators wrote to President Donald Trump about what they call a leadership vacuum at the Census Bureau. In a letter to the president, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Tom Carper (D- Del.) said the absence of a director and deputy director are putting the success of the decennial (2020) census at risk. The two members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said the agency needs leadership to deal with ongoing challenges involving IT systems, cybersecurity and cost control. (Sen. Heitkamp)
Congress will return in the new year looking for ways to pay for President Trump’s new tax reform law. The Congressional Budget Office projected a $150 billion shortfall with the tax cuts, meaning programs will need to be eliminated over the next decade to offset the new tax cuts. House Democrats are trying to head-off any idea of targeting federal employees. In a letter sent last week, 95 House lawmakers advised Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi not to use federal employees’ compensation as a bargaining chip the upcoming budget negotiations. The lawmakers called suggestions of a pay freeze or benefits reduction for federal employees “a slap in the face to the hardworking Americans who care for our veterans, process our Social Security checks, and protect our national parks.” ( Federal News Radio)
When the New Year rolls around on Monday, nearly 1.6 million current service members will have a decision to make about their retirement plans. Eligible service members from all seven of the uniformed services will have an entire year to choose to remain with the current legacy “high-3” retirement system or choose the Defense Department’s new Blended Retirement System (BRS) — a mix of a traditional pension and a defined contribution system featuring the government-supported Thrift Savings Plan. Everyone who joins the military after the New Year will automatically be placed in the blended retirement system. (AF.mil)
The Army said it is planning to assemble a new consortium of vendors specializing in cyber defense, and will meet with potential firms to manage the consortium this month. Once it’s up and running, the Army is planning to turn to that pool of vendors to conduct up to 24 cyber capability prototypes each year in response to demands from Army Cyber Command and Army Training and Doctrine Command. The army planned to wrap up the acquisition process for each of those prototypes in just 30 days time. (Federal News Radio)
The Office of Personnel Management reminded stakeholders to start using the new, online security clearance questionnaire – a revised Standard Form 86. The new SF 86 is a PDF-fillable online form used by military personnel, government contractors and government employees requiring a security clearance. The National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) — which coordinates security clearances — said it will no longer accept the old SF-86 form after Jan. 1. NBIB Director Charlie Phalen said the new form will help security clearance applicants more easily enter in their information. (OPM/NBIB)
Procurement rule changes taking effect Jan. 1 will make it easier to buy IT equipment. Thanks to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the threshold for no-competition micro-purchases fose from $3,500 to $10,000. Simplified acquisition thresholds rose from $150,000 to $250,000. Former federal procurement chief Angela Styles predicted the higher limits would spur sales on the open market and on GSA multiple award schedule contracts. But she also said they could dampen sales on the big government-wide acquisition contracts.