GAO: Funding questions remain for President Trump’s proposed border wall

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  • A new report says President Donald Trump’s proposed wall at the U.S. southern border may cost more than the administration thought. Serious funding questions arose for the administration’s proposed wall at the U.S. southern border. The Government Accountability Office said Customs and Border Protection has not taken into account the costs of building a wall on different sections of the border which differ by topography, land ownership, and other factors. Until then, it can’t give an accurate cost estimate. (Government Accountability Office)
  • The Office of Personnel Management updated its guidance and will extend a special premium pay cap waiver for civilian federal employees working in Iraq to support the administration’s declared national emergency. The declared emergency is extended through May 2019, but OPM said agencies only have authority to waive premium pay caps through the end of 2018. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is seeking more answers from the head of the General Services Administration regarding plans for the FBI’s headquarters. This comes after the Washington Post reported details of an early draft of an upcoming inspector report which said GSA Administrator Emily Murphy may have misled lawmakers about the White House’s role in keeping the headquarters in DC. Van Hollen asked Murphy to clarify her testimony from a February hearing on the subject. (Sen. Chris Van Hollen)
  • One governmentwide contract that is struggling has gotten a boost. The Human Capital and Training Solutions (HCATS) program has yet to live up to its billing as the go-to vehicle for agencies to buy human resources services over the last two years. So GSA and OPM are giving it some help. GSA and OPM announced yesterday that the fee agencies pay to use the contract is dropping to 0.75 percent from 2 percent. GSA said lowering the fee will make HCATS more competitive with other contracting options and lower the barrier to use. GSA and OPM awarded the $11 billion HCATS to 109 large businesses and 45 small firms in 2016. (General Services Administration)
  • The Defense Department fell short of funding community support systems for service members and their families from 2012 to 2017. GAO found DoD did not fund those programs to the targeted 65 percent level, which forces service members and their families to pay for some program costs out of pocket. (Government Accountability Office)
  • Finding a supportive community and keeping physically fit are crucial to the success of veterans after they leave the service. A new study in the Journal of Translational Behavioral Medicine said veterans often find it hard to do so, which leads to risky behavior. But activities like volunteering, exercising and finding a community can keep vets mentally and physically healthy. (Federal News Radio)
  • A former National Security Agency contractor will be sentenced later this month for leaking a classified report to the media. Reality Winner struck a plea agreement with the government that would require her to spend a little more than five years in prison, but the federal judge overseeing her case in Georgia won’t be bound by that deal when he sentences her two weeks from today. Winner pleaded guilty late last month to transmitting national security information. The government still hasn’t described the report she’s accused of leaking, but the date of her disclosure coincides with the publication of an NSA document on Russian hacking. (Federal News Radio)
  • Eight agencies and the Mitre Corporation are teaming up to solve a longstanding challenge with federal programs — eligibility verification. About 25 percent of all improper payments are because the systems and processes to determine if a citizen is eligible for a program aren’t good enough. Mitre is running the Strengthening Eligibility Verification Challenge to come up with a solution. It’s goal is to discover innovative, cost-effective solutions that agencies can use to improve verification of benefit eligibility in federal programs. (Mitre Corporation)
  • Blockchain has found yet another potential use case in government. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has partnered with IBM to see if the technology can help keep track of electronic health record data. The CDC’s technical services branch chief said blockchain makes it easier to share EHR data between the agency and health care providers. The technology also complies with health care privacy laws. (Federal News Radio)