VA clarifies, no current effort to privatize agency

In today's Federal Newscast, the Veterans Affairs Department put out a news release, denying any internal plans to move toward privatization.

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  • The Veterans Affairs Department says there is no current effort to privatize the agency. In a news release, VA called the privatization argument a “red herring” designed to distract from honest debate about veterans health care. VA argued that it’s added 15,000 new employees since the start of the Trump administration. VA’s budget is nearly four times as large as it was 20 years ago. The department said its community care program has existed for over 70 years. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • Since taking over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has given big pay raises to the deputies he’s hired. The Associated Press reports Mulvaney has hired at least eight political appointees at CFPB, five of whom are paid at least $259,000 a year. That’s more than the salaries of members of Congress and Cabinet secretaries. Mulvaney himself does not collect a salary as acting CFPB director. (Federal News Radio)
  • The omnibus spending bill was supposed to put the brakes on the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to shutter regional offices, but the agency might be moving ahead with some closures anyway. The EPA is apparently still planning to close field offices in Las Vegas, Nevada. The omnibus Congress passed doesn’t include any requested funds to close or consolidate regional offices, but EPA employees said the bill doesn’t specify what it means by regional offices. (Federal News Radio)
  • New tools are here to let you dig deeper into federal spending data. The Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service launched a series of new data analysis tools giving users more access to a treasure trove of contracts, grants and other spending information like never before. These new tools are part of the fiscal service’s updates to the portal. One major change in the site is now users can search spending data down to the program level. Another change lets users visualize spending information by agency or broad topic area like energy. The update comes as part of the ongoing implementation of the DATA Act. (Federal News Radio)
  • Get ready for this year’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. The Office of Personnel Management said it will begin distributing them the first week of May. It’ll be sent to emails in two waves, open for six weeks at a time. The last surveys will close in June. OPM will also invite some employees to try a new survey with new questions, some clarifications and new definitions. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
  • Several federal employee organizations, including the Senior Executives Association, said recent changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are having a “ruinous” effect on federal employees who relocate for work. They said the 25,000 federal employees a year who do move face “gross-up” tax bills, with some as large as one or several pay checks. The organizations wrote to General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. They want GSA to resolve the issue quickly and issue new guidance. The SEA and others said new tax reform provisions are forcing federal employees to decline new assignments or leave federal service. (Federal News Radio)
  • Veterans received a reminder to steer clear of two specific scams. The Postal Inspection Service and AARP said they’re seeing veterans fall for more fake charities. The Postal Inspection Service said it’s also seeing more pension advance companies convincing veterans and federal retirees to pay high interest rates for a lump sum that’s ultimately worth less than their pensions. The Postal Inspection Service and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said veterans should avoid loans with high fees and interest. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • The Pentagon made a long-awaited appointment of a new chief information officer. The Defense Department has not had a permanent CIO since last February. But Defense officials said Dana Deasy will take the position sometime early next month. Until last fall, Deasy was the CIO at J.P. Morgan Chase, a position he’d held since 2013. Deasy is an outspoken advocate for the use of commercial cloud computing, and gained attention last year when he moved some of the financial services giant’s systems to public cloud platforms. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Army Corps of Engineers spent $60 million on a power plant in Afghanistan that was never put to use. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report found the power plant couldn’t be turned on because it may have endangered Afghan citizens. The Defense Department inspector general said poor work left the system unstable. (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction)
  • A training exercise in the Horn of Africa was put on hold after a pair of aircraft accidents occurred just a few hours apart. Officials called it a “reasonable precaution.” A Marine Harrier jet crashed just after takeoff from Djibouti earlier this week, and a Marine helicopter was damaged in a rough landing as part of the same exercise a few hours later. The incidents come amid a spate of recent military aviation mishaps, including two other state-side crashes that killed one airman and four Marines earlier this week. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Navy is paying another $57 million to fix the USS Fitzgerald after it collided with a container ship last June. The contract is going to Huntington-Ingalls, which is already working on a $63 million contract to take out the damaged parts of the ship. More contracted repairs are expected. (Associated Press)
  • A major Defense contractor is being circumspect in its public expressions about escalating trade tariffs proposed by the Trump administration. Boeing, deeply involved with both DoD and NASA, is also caught in the trade crossfire. It’s the United States’ largest exporter. In its proposed counter-tariffs, China named aircraft with empty weights of less than 45 kilograms. That matches Boeing’s 737, which the company sells in China. In a release, Boeing said it was confident the dialogue will continue, saying both governments’ proposals would harm the global aerospace industry. (Boeing)

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