USDA launches new website for Centers of Excellence

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  • The Agriculture Department has a new way to follow the progress of the Trump administration’s IT modernization efforts. Its Centers of Excellence initiative can be tracked through a new website. USDA lists progress around all five CoE areas. For example around cloud adoption, USDA says it avoided spending $2 million by reusing security authorizations for cloud services. For the CoE area of data analytics, USDA launched the Tell Sonny dashboard, which gives the Office of Customer Experience a daily view of the nationwide topics and trends that USDA customers are concerned about. The agency is expected to award the second set of CoE contracts by the end of September. (IT Modernization Centers of Excellence)
  • The 2019 defense appropriations bill cracks down on other transaction authorities. It requires the Pentagon send Congress a report on OTAs every fiscal quarter. The report must explain each OTA agreement’s value, obligations, vendor and other information. The bill also asks the comptroller general to review OTAs in the past. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Air Force awarded a $7.2 billion contract for 22 GPS satellites. In a statement, Secretary Heather Wilson said the award is going to Lockheed Martin. Per the contract, Lockheed Martin Space will build the GPS 3 Follow-On satellites to provide greater accuracy and improved anti-jamming capabilities. The first one could be ready in 2026. (Air Force)
  • The Air Force’s top official said that service needs to substantially increase its size if it’s going to meet the missions it’s been assigned by the National Defense Strategy. Wilson said the service’s internal analyses show it needs to grow to a total of 386 squadrons – 74 more than it has today. She said the figure is based on intelligence estimates of the sorts of threats the Air Force will need to confront in the 2020-2025 timeframe. The added squadrons would also require another 40,000 personnel. The Air Force has not yet determined how those slots would be divided between active duty, reserve, and civilian jobs. (Federal News Radio)
  • Navy sailors will have less training to do in 2019. The service is giving commanders more discretion over what training sailors must complete. The Navy is the third military service to implement the policy. Some of the training that may not be required includes stress management and hazing policy and prevention. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Special Counsel recognized three Transportation Security Administration whistleblowers with this year’s Public Servant of the Year award. OSC said TSA placed two of them on involuntary reassignments after revealing lax airport security procedures. It also reassigned a third employee who refused to give false information about his colleagues. The TSA ended its practice of involuntary reassignments in 2016 following an investigation from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Office of Special Counsel)
  • IRS enforcement operations bring in $2.6 billion dollars more in 2017 than in 2016, despite continually shrinking staff. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t use help. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said the increase was largely due to a small number of corporate cases, and billions of dollars are left on the table for lack of employees. (Federal News Radio)
  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) urged the Department of Health and Human Services to stop bargaining with unions in bad faith. She said the agency shows no sincere resolve to reach an agreement with the National Treasury Employees Union. The union represents 14,000 HHS employees. HHS refuses to resume bargaining with NTEU since leaving negotiations after only one day. (National Treasury Employees Union)
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it’s on a tear to cut regulation of health care providers. A new, 285-page proposal details reforms of what CMS calls unnecessary, obsolete or excessively burdensome regulations, under its Patients Over Paperwork initiative. It says the rule changes would save providers more than $1 billion annually, and give them more time to spend with patients. The new rules cover hospitals, hospices, surgical centers and home health agencies. Comments are due within 60 days. (Federal Register)