Former military leaders call on President Trump to end ban on transgender troops

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  • Almost three dozen former military officers and officials called on President  Donald Trump to halt his ban on transgender people in the military. A brief signed by former defense secretaries Chuck Hagel and Leon Panetta, former national security agency director Michael Hayden, along with retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and others says the ban undermines national security. (Lambda Legal)
  • The Office of Personnel Management made four new locality pay areas official. Some 62,000  federal employees in Birmingham, Alabama; Burlington, Vermont; San Antonio, Texas and Norfolk, Virginia will get their own locality pay rates in January. The president will set locality pay rates in time for the first pay period in 2019. OPM’s regulations bring the total number of locality pay areas to 51. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Food and Drug Administration is developing an alternative pay and personnel system for employees within 38 occupations. FDA received congressional authority to develop its own personnel system to help it better recruit and attract new talent for implementing the 21st Century Cures Act. It can now approve salaries up to $400,000. Details about the new system haven’t been finalized. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new national campaign from the Veterans Affairs Department is looking to inform veterans of the agency’s services and promote it as a great place to work. The agency is using the phrase “Choose VA” to reach out to potential employees. It’s also using the campaign to promote the department as a great place for veterans to work. Veterans make up over 32 percent of the VA workforce. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department is looking to use artificial intelligence tools to help it handle more calls to its hotline. In a request for information filed last week, the VA said it was seeking a software-as-a-service AI solution to help veterans seeking care. The RFI stated VA is looking for AI tools that can function on multiple formats, including computers, tablets, voice and chat. The agency also asked vendors for natural language processing that can hold a “human-like” conversation with a veteran seeking care. (FedBizOpps)
  • Under the President’s Management Agenda, all agencies need to improve their customer service. But making their websites more user-friendly may be the biggest challenge. Forrester’s latest Customer Experience Scorecard said federal customers using digital channels had a harder time getting their problem solved compared to using the phone or visiting in person. (Federal News Radio)
  • Three top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee questioned the Environmental Protection Agency’s handling of its contractor workforce. A letter to the agency raised concerns over the EPA’s lack of internal controls. Last year, the agency’s inspector general found the EPA didn’t know how many contractors completed background investigations. Between fiscal 2013 and 2017, the EPA spent more than $6 billion on contracts. (House Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • President Donald Trump named a former energy executive to a Homeland Security directorate. He nominated William Bryan as DHS undersecretary for science and technology. Bryan is now the senior official for the S&T directorate. Before that he’d been acting under secretary. Before coming to the administration in May 2017, Bryan was briefly president of ValueBridge International, an energy, agriculture and health care consultancy. He spent 14 years in the Defense and Energy departments before that. (White House)
  • The Army has discharged dozens of soldiers who enlisted in military service under a special program for immigrants. The Pentagon said there have been no recent policy changes to the program, called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest. But immigration attorneys told the Associated Press that the Army has separated at least 40 soldiers recently. In some cases, the service labeled them a security risk. In others, it gave no reason at all. At least one of those soldiers, Lucas Calixto, has filed a lawsuit, claiming he was kicked out with little explanation and with no way to appeal the decision. (Federal News Radio)