Industry groups urge Congress to create a speedy security clearance process

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  • Several industry organizations have urged leaders on the House and Senate armed services committees to make changes to the security clearance program in the 2019 defense authorization bill. The letter  from the Professional Services Council, Intelligence and National Security Alliance,  the National Defense Industrial Association, and others, asked the committees expedite background checks for certain mission critical positions. They have also asked for the creation of an information sharing program between agencies and industry on the status of a contractor’s clearance. (Professional Service Council)
  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said it will consider the MERIT Act this week. The bill would extend probationary periods for federal employees and senior executives. It would also change the typical timeline employees have to appeal a disciplinary action before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The committee will also consider legislation that will reauthorize MSPB. The agency’s prior reauthorization expired back in 2007.  (Federal News Radio)
  • A strong majority of federal employees are concerned about potential or real changes coming to their agency’s telework policies. A new online survey by Federal News Radio found 44 percent of the more than 450 respondents said they were very concerned and 25 percent said they were somewhat concerned. Several respondents said the policy already has been changed, including one who said their agency will stop allowing telework in October. These policy changes also are causing more than half of the respondents to consider their options for changing jobs. (Federal News Radio)
  • Vice President Mike Pence has thanked the Commerce Department for playing a leading role in the re-direction of America’s space enterprise. In a speech to agency employees Monday, Pence commended Commerce for creating a “one-stop shop” for commercial space policy. Pence said a new agency within Commerce would reduce the regulatory burden on the private sector. To be called the Space Policy Advancing Commercial Enterprise (SPACE) Administration, the new agency would merge the former offices of Space Commerce and Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs.  (Federal News Radio / White House)
  • The Defense Department (DoD) said it would be reaching out to 130,000 veterans who may be eligible for a tax refund from their disability severance payments. DoD said the refund impacts those veterans who left the military on disability between 1991 and 2016. Veterans will have one year from the time they are notified to file for the return. The standard refund up to $3,200 is dependent on the year a veteran received the disability severance payment. (DoD)

  • The Veterans Affairs Department (VA) said it has reduced the number of missed appointments at its medical centers by sending reminders via text messaging. Chief Technology Officer Charles Worthington said veterans miss about 9 million appointments at VA facilities every year. But in the past year, he said VA sent out about 18 million appointment reminders, resulting in about 300,000 canceled appointments through texts. (Federal News Radio)
  • A change  in the GI Bill has prompted some pushback by veterans groups. The Pentagon issued a new policy last week that military members will no longer be allowed to transfer the education benefit to their family members if they’ve already served for 16 years or more. It said the transferability provision is “not an entitlement.” Veterans groups said it’s always been treated as an entitlement, and that no one from the Pentagon consulted with them about the change.(Federal News Radio)

  • The Coast Guard has honored civilian employee Geoffrey Scibek of the Marine Safety Union in Huntington, West Virginia, with  the excellence in marine inspections award. The panel of five inspectors noted Scibek’s own technical and inspection skills, as  well as his mentoring of up-and-coming inspectors. Scibek oversaw installation of telemetry gear on the barge fleet of a big oil company  and guided repairs to a collapsed crane that threatened dangerous nearby barge cargo. (Coast Guard)
  • The Energy Department kept news of stolen weapons grade plutonium under wraps for a year, according to an investigative report from the Center for Public Integrity. The report said Energy security agents left the nuclear material on the back seat of a rental car in San Antonio, Texas. The report said the agents were in San Antonio to retrieve radioactive materials from a nonprofit research lab as part of a program to recover small samples of fissionable material at risk of falling into the wrong hands. Now, a year after the theft, the radioactive materials have not been recovered and no suspects in the theft have been identified. (Center for Public Integrity)

  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said it has hired its first chief data officer, to help the agency better spot and understand trends in its case data. Acting Commissioner Victoria Lipnic said EEOC is one of the first small agencies to hire a chief data officer. She told a conference of federal equal employment practitioners to think more about where their agencies recruit and consider hiring or promoting from communities where they haven’t offten looked before. (EEOC)

  • Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) want the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold a hearing on the president’s recent decision to move administrative law judges out of the competitive service. President Donal Trump signed an executive order that gives agency heads the authority to appoint their own administrative judges. But Connolly and Cummings said the order gives agencies unlimited authority to load the legal corps with partisan judges. (Connolly/House)

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