Lawmakers ask Tillerson to clarify if State and USAID will merge

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  • Sixteen lawmakers are concerned whether the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development will merge. House lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking to clarify the new mission statement for the agencies. They want Tillerson to explain differing comments made last week about the two agencies’ futures. (Rep. Gerry Connolly)

 

  • No shutdown over the holidays. Congress narrowly passed a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. The stopgap legislation will keep the government open until Jan. 19. Lawmakers have plenty of unfinished business to attend to after the break, including challenges on immigration, the federal budget and raising the debt ceiling. (Federal News Radio)

 

  • An important Department of Veterans Affairs health care delivery channel gets a new lease on life. The Veterans Choice program was nearly out of money. It lets veterans obtain care from private providers, paid for by VA. But included in last night’s continuing resolution was $2.1 billion to keep it going until next fall. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said he hopes Congress will pass a bill to overhaul Choice. It’s already cleared committee and would take effect Oct. 1. (Federal News Radio)

 

  • The Justice Department collected $1 billion less in False Claims Act recoveries in 2017 as compared to 2016. DoJ released its latest figures for last year, saying it brought in $3.7 billion from health care, procurement and other fraud-related cases. A majority of the recoveries came from whistleblowers under the qui tam provisions. (Department of Justice)

 

  • The Defense Department shrank the number of contracts it awards to minority and women-owned small businesses. A Government Accountability Office study of DOD’s contracts shows that between 2010 and 2016, DoD decreased its obligations for them by 12 percent. It spent $32 billion on their services and products in 2016, down from $36 billion in 2010. (Government Accountability Office)

 

  • A federal appeals court has rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to delay letting transgender troops join the military. The fourth circuit court declined to issue a stay in a lower court ruling that ordered the Pentagon to start accepting transgender recruits on Jan. 1. The Justice Department said it disagrees with the ruling, and the government is examining its options. The appeal arose from a lawsuit filed in a Baltimore federal court by six transgender Americans who are currently serving in the military. It’s one of two federal cases still making its way through the legal system, and DoD said it will start admitting new recruits as ordered while the legal battles continue. (Federal News Radio)

 

  • Jay Gibson has been named chief management officer at the Defense Department. He’ll take over the role on Jan. 2, which includes streamlining DoD operations. That’s also when Ben FitzGerald will take over the Office of Strategy and Design. He will play a key role in reorganizing DoD’s acquisition, logistics and technology office. (Department of Defense)

 

  • Agencies are in the home stretch to meet the new requirements under Section 508. The U.S. Access Board set a Jan. 18 deadline for agencies to make sure their websites and other technologies meet seven new or updated changes to the federal standards that ensure people with disabilities can access federal services. The CIO Council is promoting the concept of universal design to help meet these new requirements. It would ensure the complete user experience is captured at every stage of the implementation to guarantee accessibility for all. (U.S. Access Board)

 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency is mulling over how it would relocate equipment from its offices and labs around the country. EPA is looking for industry feedback on ways to move things like hazardous chemicals, ultra-low freezers, and microscopes. According to a sources-sought notice, the move could be a short distance, or across the country. (FedBizOpps)

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