Lawmakers battle over letting US Postal Service offer financial services

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  • Post Office banking

    House and Senate lawmakers have produced competing bills about whether to allow the U.S. Postal Service to offer banking and other financial services. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) has introduced an amendment to a must-pass spending bill to kill a senate proposal that would allow the Post Office to offer some banking services. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)have introduced bills that would allow the Postal Service to conduct some financial services, touting it as a solution to stabilizing the U.S. Postal Service’s financial problems. McHenry’s bill said banking and financial services are beyond the Postal Service’s core competencies and could present significant competitive issues for the banking industry. (CUNA)

  • GAO / IGs

    The House has passed a bill that would hold agencies more accountable to recommendations from inspectors general (IG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The bill  introduced by Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) would require agencies to give a status update on open IG and GAO recommendations in each year’s budget justification. Agencies have yet to close 8,000 GAO recommendations and 15,000 open IG recommendations. Walker says his bill could achieve nearly $87 billion in cost savings. (Rep. Walker)

  • Warner / relocation costs

    Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has introduced a bill that would resolve loopholes for federal employees who relocate for work but can’t get reimbursed for the taxes they incur on moving costs and transportation. The General Services Administration issued new guidance that resolves the issue for 95 percent of federal employees affected by recent changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  But Warner said there are still about 5 percent of federal employees who are still paying taxes on their moving expenses.  (Scribd)

  • OMB Reorg

    An Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officer has told lawmakers at least ten     government reorganization plans can be implemented without help from Congress. OMB Deputy Director Margaret Weichert testified Wednesday about the reorganization proposals before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.  She also said OMB has identified another 30 proposals that will need congressional authorization. Democrats on the committee say they’re disappointed by the lack of detail in many of the plans. (Federal News Radio)

  • DoD OTAs

    The Defense Department (DoD) has awarded billions of dollars in Other Transaction Authority (OTA) funding to big contractors, when the money was targeted to go to smaller, more agile and innovative companies. A Federal News Radio report reveals concerns that contractors like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are taking home a lion’s share of the OTA funds.  Over the past three years, Congress has continued to loosen the rules around OTAs, giving the DoD more nerve to flirt with larger OTA agreements.  But now the Project on Government Oversight has spoken out, noting the old-line contractors have used OTAs to circumvent contracting rules,  and that such agreements could result in higher costs, and the purchase of products and services that aren’t needed. (Federal News Radio)

  • Futures Command nominee

    Lt. Gen. John Murray has been nominated to head Army’s new Futures Command. Murray is currently serving as the deputy chief of staff for services programming. The command  will consolidate the brainpower that looks at the technology needed to counter future threats and decides what programs should receive priority funding.  (Congress.gov)

  • DoD  protecting birds

    Debates over Defense Department protections of environmentally sensitive birds may become a thing of the past. The House version of this year’s Defense authorization act includes a rider that would bar the Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting the Sage Grouse and the Western Prairie Chicken under the Environmental Protection Act. It’s an issue that routinely consumes hours of debate in the House’s markup of the NDAA. But on Wednesday, the Pentagon issued a statement urging lawmakers to drop it altogether. DoD said federal management of those birds has nothing to do with impacts on its training ranges or bases. (Federal News Radio)

  • McCaskill / FEMA

    Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has continued to push the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the steps it’s taking to ensure proper use of pre-positioned contracts at the state and local level. Pre-positioned contracts allow for pre-selection of qualified contractors at pre-determined prices. After Hurricane Irma,  the Florida Department of Transportation had 18 pre-positioned contracts for debris removal. But after the hurricane, McCaskill said the Florida agency awarded at least two emergency contracts that may have exceeded pre-negotiated rates by more than $30 million. (Homeland Security and Government Affairs)

  • Email preservation

    The House has approved a bill to have the government update its systems for preserving email. The  Electronic Message Preservation Act, sponsored by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md) emphasizes the requirement for agencies to preserve email so that messages remain available for discovery by online searches. It also requires the Archivist to report yearly to Congress on the status of White House and agency email preservation. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has yet to move its version of the bill. (Congress.gov

  • DHS cyber

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has received congressional backing for a law making permanent its program for keeping pace with emerging cyber capabilities. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) has introduced the Advancing Cybersecurity Diagnostics and Mitigation Act to codify the five-year old program. DHS’ Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program safeguards agencies against getting stuck with outdated cybersecurity tools. (Rep. Ratcliff)

  • Acquisition optimism

    A survey of the federal acquisition workforce has found them more positive about the state of federal acquisition than at any time since 2003. The  biennial survey of federal acquisition workers by the Professional Services Council and Grant Thornton found time-in-service and more training are reasons for the optimism. The survey said employees hired in 2012 and 2013 are now more seasoned and more confident in their work. Another reason for the positive outlook is the feeling that workers are closing skill gaps and improving communication with industry.  (Federal News Radio)

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