Fed union warns Congress about shutdown’s effect on agencies

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  • One federal employee union is pleading with Congress to pass the seven remaining appropriations bills before the Dec. 7 deadline. The National Treasury Employees Union wrote to all congressional members, saying a government shutdown would be disruptive to every agency, including the IRS before the upcoming tax season. NTEU President Tony Reardon is also pushing Congress to finalize and pass a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian employees. (National Treasury Employees Union)
  • Most of the Defense Department’s increased budget is going towards products made by the top five defense contractors. A new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies said DoD’s spending still focuses on traditional companies. The Pentagon announced four years ago it was going to focus on buying from nontraditional companies to spur innovation. The report found that even though contract obligations increased by 13 percent from 2015 to 2017, the Pentagon’s buying practices are still focused on traditional companies and established weapons systems. (Federal News Network)
  • Civilian hiring freezes and long hiring and contracting processes are negatively impacting military hospitals. A new report from the Government Accountability Office found these issues have forced military hospitals to send patients outside the system for medical care. GAO said the Defense Health Agency needs a workforce plan to address the problems. (Government Accountability Office)
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  • Poor planning and communication were the culprits in what was initially thought to be an active shooter situation at a Naval facility near Washington. Navy and Montgomery County police responded to reports of an active shooter at the Naval Support Activity Bethesda Tuesday afternoon. It later turned out that the reports originated with one of the installation’s tenant commands, which was conducting an active shooter drill. The Navy said as part the exercise, someone activated an emergency notification system, but failed to include the words “drill” or “exercise” in the message, prompting numerous personnel to believe a real-world incident was underway. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of Personnel Management will re-compete its contract for credit monitoring services for victims of the 2015 cyber breaches. OPM’s current contract with ID Experts expires at the end of the year. enrolled victims in the ID Experts service will not need to make a change, if OPM decides to continue working with the vendor. OPM said it planned for a six-month transition period, if it does choose another vendor for credit monitoring services. Current law requires that OPM provide free protection services to cyber breach victims through 2026.
  • Thrift Savings Plan participants may see new withdrawal options as soon as next September. The agency that administers the TSP said it is preparing for the new options in three phases. Regulations detailing exactly what will change should be finalized by mid-2019. (Federal News Network)
  • President Donald Trump’s pick to run the National Park Service made it out of committee. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted in favor of Raymond Vela, sending his nomination to the full Senate. If confirmed, he would be the first Latino to lead NPS. The committee also approved Rita Baranwal for assistant secretary of energy for nuclear energy, and Bernard McNamee to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee)
  • A bill to elevate the role of the federal chief information officer is up for a vote in the House this week. Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-Texas) Federal CIO Authority Act would require the federal CIO to report directly to the Office of Management and Budget director, and the federal chief information security officer to report directly to the federal CIO. (House.gov)
  • Lawmakers finally want to give the Small Business Administration total authority to certify service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses. Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), a member of the Small Business Committee, introduced the Verification Alignment and Service-Disabled Business Adjustment Act, which would require SBA to certify all service-disabled veteran-owned small firms as it does for all other small businesses. Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs is the certification authority for these firms doing business with the agency while SBA just oversees the self-certification process governmentwide. The bill also would preserve the unique veterans-owned small business contracting preference in VA. (House Veterans Affairs Committee)
  • Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is expected to move to her new office on the St. Elizabeths Campus in Anacostia in the spring. DHS and GSA still owe Congress a third draft of their master plan for the consolidated campus before the end of 2018. They’ve been working on the project now for more than a decade. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Health and Human Services shed light on sometimes hidden medical costs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched an online search page, letting would-be patients look up prices for any of thousands of outpatient procedures. Visitors can compare prices between ambulatory care centers and hospital outpatient departments, including the portion paid by Medicare. Dubbed Procedure Price Lookup, construction of the site was among the mandates in the 21st Century Cures Act enacted in 2016. (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
  • Fifteen years after its launch, MyHealtheVet now has more than 4.5 million active users. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie called it a great example of the agency’s modernization efforts. He said it helped increase veterans’ access to care. The portal was created in 2003 to encourage veterans to take more control of their healthcare. (Department of Veterans Affairs)