How one agency cut over $4.5B in improper payments

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  • A big drop in improper payments has been the reality for one of government’s most troubled programs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services avoided handing out more than $4.5 billion in improper payments under one of its signature programs in fiscal 2018. CMS announced the Medicare fee-for-service program dropped its rate to 8.12 percent last year from 9.51 percent in 2017. This is the second consecutive year the rate has been below 10 percent, which is the threshold for compliance with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act. CMS said it will continue to address improper payments through a strategy that includes provider enrollment and screening standards, enforcement authorities and advanced data analytics such as predictive modeling. (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
  • House Democrats anticipate a full slate of investigations once they gain the majority in January. When it comes to the decision making process for choosing the FBI’s headquarters location, Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz has given no indication of whether his office will look into the matter. Several lawmakers have asked him to and Horowitz said his office does investigate construction and contracting issues. (Federal News Network)
  • Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen has vowed a zero tolerance policy on employee harassment, misconduct and retaliation. She told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that she’s the right person to lead a complete culture change because she’s experienced harassment of her own at the Forest Service. The agency recently appointed a senior executive to lead a new office on employee conduct and behavior. It also hired independent contractors to assess the agency’s conduct policies. (Federal News Network)
  • A top leader on the House Ways and Means Committee wants to digitize Social Security numbers. Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Texas) introduced the Social Security Number Modernization Act. It would completely eliminate paper-based Social Security cards. The Social Security Administration would have to publish all issued numbers over the next 10 years. Johnson said too many Social Security numbers have been compromised by recent data breaches. He said they’re only effective if confidential. (Rep. Sam Johnson)
  • In order to cut back its $700 billion budget, the Defense Department will need to slow some modernization efforts and cut back on end strength growth. President Trump asked the Pentagon to consider a 5 percent budget cut last month. Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan said military services will turn in their plans for a smaller budget today. (Federal News Network)
  • The military’s top officer called out tech firms who have decided not to work with the U.S. military, and tried to enter the Chinese market. Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said his message to such firms is, “We’re the good guys.” He was likely referring mainly to Google, but he avoided mentioning that company’s name. The tech giant is reportedly planning a censored search engine to comply with Chinese government demands. Meanwhile, it’s ended its participation in two high-profile U.S. military contracts in recent months, saying its technology shouldn’t be used in ways that “cause overall harm.” (Federal News Network)
  • All of the F-22s that weathered Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force base have left the installation. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said there was only minor damage to the planes. They’ve all been repaired and flown to other bases. Some had been left behind during the storm because they were being maintained or repaired when the hurricane hit last month.
  • The Homeland Security Department lays out the next two years for its newly renamed cybersecurity branch. Chris Krebs, undersecretary of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said the two year roadmap aims to bring the agency up to “full operating capability.” President Trump approved the name change last Friday. (Federal News Network)
  • It’s not official yet, but President Trump intends to nominate a permanent administrator at the EPA. In remarks during Medal of Freedom ceremonies Friday, Trump said he would nominate acting administrator Andrew Wheeler. Trump said Wheeler’s done a fantastic job. Wheeler moved from deputy to acting administrator after Scott Pruitt left earlier this year. Trump also nominated Joan O’Hara, now a special assistant to the president, to be executive secretary of the National Security Council. (Federal News Network)