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The Air Force has an ambitious plan to grow its force over the next decade, but it’s not ready to talk about how much it’ll cost. The service’s secretary and its chief of staff told reporters yesterday that the plan to add 74 new squadrons was based on thousands of simulations of how the service might need to respond to future combat demands. But at least so far, those models don’t include how many and what types of aircraft it might need to buy. Air Force leaders say those estimates will be forthcoming between now and next March. For now, they say, they wanted to disclose the expansion plan in order to “begin a conversation.”
The Senate approved an $854 billion minibus to fund the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Labor and Education. The package also includes a short-term fix to keep the government open through early December. The bill is headed to the House where lawmakers are expected to approve it next week. The mini-bus includes a 2.6 percent increase to military pay. (Federal News Radio)
The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs confirmed two nominees for the department. James Gfrerer won approval to be the chief information officer and assistant secretary of the VA’s Office of Information and Technology. Gfrerer is a former Marine who worked as an executive director with Ernst and Young. The committee also approved Tamara Bonzanto to be the assistant secretary of the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. Formerly, Bonzanto was a health care investigator for the House VA Committee. Both nominations head to the full Senate for a vote. (Senate Veterans Affairs Committee)
The Veterans Affairs Department’s Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning scorecard shows an increase in improvement and learning. Seventy-one percent of VA medical centers received higher marks for quality. Only 5 percent declined. VA no longer considers five medical centers high-risk. It said department-wide initiatives in improving care drove the better scores. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie called it a step in the right direction. (Veterans Affairs Department)
The Veterans Affairs Department reached its goal of deciding more than 80,000 appeals for disability claims this year. The number represents a 50 percent increase over 2017. VA has hired 186 new attorneys this fiscal year to help the agency address backlogged claims. The agency is implementing a new law designed to make it easier for veterans to appeal claims decisions and obtain decisions in a more timely and transparent manner. (Federal News Radio)
The second-highest Republican in the Senate is looking to strengthen a cybersecurity program at the Homeland Security Department. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced a bill to enhance the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program. The bill would require DHS to develop a strategy to keep the CDM program up-to-date against the latest cyber threats. The House passed Rep. John Ratcliffe’s (R-Texas) version of the bill last month. (Rep. John Ratcliffe)
The Department of Health and Human Services is taking a page out of the playbook of major retailers. It’s using blockchain to give contracting officers visibility into the entire department’s acquisition function. The new system, called Accelerate, is set to foster better decision-making, saving both time and money, much like price match guarantees at stores. Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Jose Arrieta compared it to price match guarantees at department stores. (Federal News Radio)
The Navy kicked off part one of a two-part network modernization effort. The Department of the Navy yesterday took a major step forward in its desire to break up the 18-year-old Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) program and consolidate existing networks. The DoN released the first of two major request for proposals under the Next Generation Enterprise Network (N-GEN) Recompete program. The RFP is to replace and support more than 400,000 pieces of IT hardware across 600,000 users. The Navy will buy everything from laptops to desktops to tables, 2-in-1 detachable, ultra-small desktops and thin/zero client devices. Bids are due Nov. 19.
If you’re an officer in the Air Force and you’re over 30, your dreams of being a pilot may not be dead. The Air Force is granting a three-year extension for the undergraduate flying training selection board, which means applicants under 33 do not need an exception to become pilots, combat systems officers or air battle managers. (Air Force Personnel Center)
The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general announced his retirement. Arthur Elkins Jr. will retire from federal service after nearly a decade on the job. Prior to his IG role, Elkins worked as the EPA’s associate general counsel. The EPA said he’s accepted a job outside the federal government. Earlier this month, the IG’s office released a report challenging former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s use of around-the-clock security. (Environmental Protection Agency)
The Presidential Management Fellows program is turning 40, and the Office of Personnel Management is accepting applications for the 41st year of this leadership development program. OPM said the 2019 PMF application period starts Oct. 9. President Jimmy Carter created the PMF through an Executive Order in 1977. OPM originally established the PMF program as the Presidential Fellows Intern program, which graduated its first class of fellows in 1978. (Presidential Management Fellowship)