Senate Dems lay out shutdown possibilities

To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe on PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

  • Senate Democrats said 380,000 federal employees will be furloughed if Congress can’t pass the remaining seven appropriations bills by Dec. 21. Nearly 430,000 will be forced to work without pay over the Christmas holiday. Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said all the bills are practically done, except the homeland security bill. (Senate Appropriations Committee)
  • The Senate passed a bill to require new minimum standards for agency websites. The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act passed by unanimous consent. It will raise the bar on making “dot-gov” websites secure and mobile-friendly. The House passed the same bill in November, with the next stop being the White House. (Sen. Rob Portman)
  • The Partnership for Public Service recognized the Office of the Secretary of Defense and other DoD fourth estate agencies as the most improved organization on the 2018 Best Places to Work rankings. Leadership shakeups impacted many agencies’ engagement scores for the worse this year. But acting Office of Personnel Management Director Margaret Weichert said she’s optimistic because of the progress at some of the largest federal agencies. The Department of Homeland Security as a whole also continued to improve. The Secret Service alone improved 11 points on the rankings, the most improved sub-component this year. (Federal News Network)
  • Those who dig deeper into the IT reform scorecard can find real change across the government. The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act or FITARA scorecard is not just about letter grades. Lawmakers said it demonstrates changes in how agencies manage and implement technology. The Government Accountability Office found 88 percent of all CFO Act agencies are using incremental or agile development processes. That is up from 58 percent in 2015. Agencies have closed more than 7,300 data centers and saved more than $4.5 billion since 2011. And 18 agencies are now managing their software licenses with more rigor, saving the government more than $714 million last year alone. (House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • The General Services Administration is taking a slow and steady approach as it works its way toward online marketplaces. GSA wants multiple online portals to be up and running by late 2019. But it told vendors it’s decided to limit the purchases through those marketplaces to $10,000 per item. There are two main reasons. Federal officials said it simplifies the process of deciding which regulations apply to the online portals. They also think it will let GSA start to collect data the government’s never had about day-to-day buying that happens below the micro-purchase threshold. (Federal News Network)
  • There were 42 responses to the Office of Management and Budget’s request for information for how to create its new Government Effectiveness Advanced Research Center. From those, OMB is looking at two different operating models. One would be led by the President’s Management Council, and another would be managed by the PMC and the private sector. (Performance.gov)
  • Top appointees across the government get a new assignment from the White House. The latest executive order from President Donald Trump establishes a White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council. It’s job is to help clear the way for equity investment in low income areas, as called for in the 2017 tax cut bill. The council is to be chaired by the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Other members include the secretaries of Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, and Health and Human Services. (White House)
  • The security clearance backlog is down to 600,000. National Background Investigations Bureau Director Charlie Phalen said 275,000 federal employees and contractors are waiting for initial clearances, but nearly half have interim ones. Phalen said NBIB hired more investigators, and deployed 20 bots to automate parts of the background investigation process. The Defense Department said it’s planning to transfer the security clearance program, so it doesn’t hinder NBIB’s recent progress. (Federal News Network)
  • The Trump administration is including military departments within the scope of the president’s May executive order on firing and disciplining federal employees. OPM said the Army, Navy and Air Force need to comply with the EO, and submit the past year’s disciplinary data by Jan. 9. All agencies are supposed to send OPM data on how many disciplinary actions they took, and the outcome of those actions. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
  • Any break in funding could throw the Navy’s return to readiness off course, according to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee the Navy and Marine Corps are improving in that area thanks to increased budgets; however, a return of sequestration would be detrimental to maintaining ships and building the fleet. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force is using machine learning, through a pilot program, to reduce unscheduled maintenance by as much as a third. The service took seven years’ worth of data from a single airframe platform to determine what needed repair before it’s broken. Mike Madsen, the Defense Innovation Unit’s director of strategic engagement said those results could save time, money, and lives. (Federal News Network)
  • Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the top uniformed Air Force acquisition official is heading off to a new job. Bunch will receive his fourth star as he moves over to head Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. He’s served in his acquisition role since 2015. Before that, he was commander of the Air Force Test Center. (Department of Defense)