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Three agencies could potentially save the Earth from an asteroid heading towards our planet. Buzzfeed reported that NASA, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Energy Department are collaborating to create a spacecraft capable of destroying an asteroid with a nuclear weapon. They have plenty of time as the asteroid in question won’t get here until 2135. (BuzzFeed)
The Office of Personnel Management expanded its current policy on “burrowing in.” Agencies must now get permission to convert current or former political appointees to career positions in the competitive or excepted service. Before, OPM only required permission for conversions to the competitive civil service. It made the change to comply with the Presidential Transitions Improvement Act. (Federal News Radio)
Federal employees who telework or participate in a government health and wellness program are more likely to exceed expectations on their performance evaluations. 76 percent of employees who teleworked in 2017 had higher performance ratings, according to the OPM’s latest federal work-life survey. It said those workers had higher job satisfaction and expressed greater intentions to stay at their agencies. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
The Office of Special Counsel rules a Postal Service employee violated the Hatch Act by running for political office twice. OSC found a USPS employee in Philadelphia ran for a local government council position, and a local election precinct position. The postal employee won the latter election and is currently serving out his term in office. The Hatch Act forbids federal and political employees from running for political office. OSC has filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board. (Office of Special Counsel)
Federal contractors ask the Supreme Court to tighten up standards for when whistleblowers get cash settlements. Three contractor associations filed a friend-of-the-court brief. It urged strict enforcement of a civil procedure rule. The rule requires a certain amount of detail from a whistleblower before he or she can receive a cash reward known as a qui tam. Contractors are concerned that, in some cases, vague or generalized claims of fraud have led to hefty payouts. (Professional Services Council)
The Marine Corps said it’s disciplined or fired 55 servicemembers in the year since it began investigating the “Marines United” scandal. Officials emphasized the investigative effort has gone well beyond the Facebook page where Marines were originally found to be sharing illicit photos of women without their consent, and into what the service calls a deeper issue of bias and exclusion. So far, investigations have identified 101 Marines the corps said were involved in social media misconduct. Seven have been court martialed and 15 received non-judicial punishment, six more have been discharged and 27 others were subject to some other form of administrative personnel action. (Marines)
A new medal for military personnel who participated in the response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria received approval from the Joint Staff. The Humanitarian Service Medal is available to active duty, reserve and National Guardsmen. 2017 was one of the busiest hurricane seasons in recent history.
A five year battle over an Army intelligence system may finally be over. The Army may finally be succumbing to the pressure to use a commercial software product to field its intelligence gathering system. Called the Distributed Common Ground System or DCGS, the Army initially wanted to use a home grown system instead of one that some units piloted from Palantir. But last week, the Army awarded Raytheon and Palantir a 10-year, $876 million contract to develop the first set of capabilities under DCGS. The award comes after Palantir won a bid protest against the Army in 2016 after the service initially wouldn’t let it bid on the next iteration of DCGS. (Department of Defense)
Former Veterans Affairs and Army Secretary Togo West passed away last Thursday. West served under President Bill Clinton under the dual roles. More recently, he led the investigations into mistreatment of veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, as well as the mass hooting at Fort Hood. He was 75 years old. (LA Times)