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National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson said the IRS faces an uphill battle in preparing for the next filing season due to the new tax reform laws. In her latest report to Congress, Olson said under the new laws, IRS will have to update more than 140 IT systems and 450 forms between now and next January. The IRS reported having an 80 percent level of service this past filing season, but Olson said the agency only answered less than a third of incoming calls to its tax help hotline. (Taxpayer Advocate)
An unusual, long-term outlook published by the Congressional Budget Office has predicted a gloomy economic future if something isn’t done. The report warned America’s growing budget deficit will increase debt to the highest level in U.S. history, even exceeding the size of the economy by 2031. The report said as the American population ages, Social Security and Medicare spending will increase significantly. House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said he is concerned the debt problem will affect the country’s ability to invest in the military. He said the nation’s combination of tax cuts and spending increases leave the country ill-equipped to economically compete with China and other major powers.(CBO, Defense News)
Two senators have paved the way for the Trump administration to begin acting on its reorganization proposals. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Subcommittee Chairman James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the Reforming Government Act. The bill clears the way for the administration to begin consolidating or eliminating agencies with independent regulatory authority. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee).
Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday appeared skeptical of the administration’s plans to reorganize the Office of Personnel Management. Many Democrats criticized the plan to move OPM’s existing federal personnel policy functions into the Executive Office of the President. Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert told the committee the administration studied the government personnel structures of other countries similar to the United States, and found only one with functions similar to OPM — France. The comparison was not meant as a compliment, with Weichert saying that France lacked a reputation for bureaucratic efficiency. (Federal News Radio)
The administration’s plan to privatize the U.S. Postal Service has started to get some pushback from both sides of aisle in Congress. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee’s ranking member, expressed concern with the administration’s decision to go directly to selling off the Postal Service, instead of looking to reform it. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) urged Congress to take seriously the fact that the Constitution guarantees a postal service. (Federal News Radio)
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining. The decision deals a serious financial blow to organized labor. Federal unions, such as the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) are obligated to represent every federal employee in a collective bargaining unit, but those federal workers are not obligated to become dues-paying members. Federal employees must now elect and notify the union that represents their collective bargaining unit if they wish to join and pay dues. AFGE National President J. David Cox encouraged all public sector employees to become dues paying members. (Federal News Radio) (AFGE)
NASA has suffered a setback in a signature mission. The agency pushed back the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope to March 2021, a year later than originally planned. Officials also said the project exceeded its cost limitations, spending $800 million above a $8 billion cap set by Congress. The project’s delay was made in response to an independent review of the program, which recommended its continuation. (NASA)
At least one lawmaker is concerned about a lack of cyber policy to protect the assets of the Defense Department. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said he is especially concerned about a massive technology transfer to China. The issue surfaced with reports of cyber theft issues surrounding Chinese telecom companies like ZTE. Thornberry quoted a DoD study that revealed the U.S. government does not understand how fast this technology transfer is occurring, the level of Chinese investment in U.S. technology, or even what technologies we should be protecting. (Federal News Radio)
The Department of Homeland Security asked the military to provide enough space to house 2,000 migrants within the next 45 days. The Defense Department said DHS’s latest request would eventually increase the population of migrants on military bases to 12,000 people. Border security agencies have said they prefer to use bases in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. DHS asked the Pentagon for permission to use unused buildings as housing facilities. If not enough are available, DoD said it plans to build “soft-sided camp facilities” on the bases that could shelter up to 4,000 people. (Pentagon)
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a bill aimed at saving money on federal building leases. The REAL Reform Act pushes the General Services Administration to save 20 percent on leasing costs by signing longer-term contracts with lower rates. That could be significant, as according to committee chairman Lou Barletta half of GSA’s inventory is commercially leased and costs taxpayers more than $5 billion annually. The bill also provides oversight into federal construction projects to ensure they stay below budget. (House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
The Agriculture Department and GSA said they plan to award as many as eight contracts over the next three months to move the IT modernization effort from planning to implementation. GSA and USDA detailed phase II of the Centers of Excellence (CoE) initiative yesterday. The agencies seek vendor feedback on their initial ideas and plans developed under phase I of the CoE eligibility effort around five areas: Cloud adoption, infrastructure optimization, data analytics, customer experience and contact center. (Federal News Radio)
IRS plans to hire 1,700 full-time employees ahead of next tax filing season