Senators ask for TSA’s plan as shutdown drags on

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  • The new ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee wants to know how the Transportation Security Administration is engaging with its employees who are forced to work without pay during the government shutdown. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) also wants to know TSA’s plan if call outs and staffing shortages continue. His concerns were shared by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). They’re worried about the shutdown’s impact on already low morale. Buzzfeed reported many TSA workers have yet to receive $500 bonuses and pay for the first day of the shutdown as promised. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
  • More than 10,000 furloughed federal employees filed for unemployment benefits in the first week of January, nearly double the amount from the week before. Most eligible federal employees can apply for unemployment benefits on, or after the first day of their furlough. Another 13,000 federal civilian employees claimed unemployment benefits the last week of December 29. (Department of Labor)
  • The National Treasury Employees Union adds a third count to its lawsuit against the Trump administration and the government shutdown. The union said the administration’s decision to recall IRS employees back to work without pay violates the Antideficiency Act. NTEU said IRS employees processing tax refunds aren’t necessary to protect life and property. A federal district judge will hear arguments at the end of the month. (Federal News Network)
  • If the partial government shutdown doesn’t end soon, government contractors will have one more thing to worry about. The Professional Services Council is warning that the longer the partial government shutdown lasts the more likely will vendors have to start laying people off. This is especially true for small businesses which may be forced to make a decision between people and keeping their credit lines liquid. PSC said if contractors have to furlough a large number of employees, the impact on agencies after the partial shutdown ends will be considerable in terms of delayed projects. The industry association said there are no verified numbers of how many contractors have already been furloughed or are in danger of being furloughed, but it’s estimated to be tens of thousands.
  • Bipartisan legislation looks to give postal employees in middle-management a chance to appeal firings, suspensions, and pay reductions. Reps. Gerry Connolly and David McKinley introduced a bill to allow more than 7,500 non-union, non-career postal employees to take their cases to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Connolly said the bill would protect these employees if they want to report fraud, waste, or abuse at the agency. (Rep. Gerry Connolly)
  • The House has passed a bill offering greater transparency into more than $600 billion worth of annual agency grants. Lawmakers first approved the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency, or GREAT Act, in September. But the bill never got a full Senate vote, before the end of the last Congress. The bill requires the Office of Management and Budget to set up a standardized, governmentwide grant reporting system for federal grant recipients. (Rep. Jimmy Gomez)
  • The House Armed Services Committee will see a lot of familiar faces on the Republican side. Of the 25 Republican members, only two are newcomers. Congressmen Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Michael Waltz (R-FL) are the only first-time members. Bergman is a former Marine Corps lieutenant general. Waltz is the former Pentagon director for Afghanistan Policy. The Democrats announced their picks for the committee earlier this week. (House Armed Services Committee Minority)
  • A new Air Force system looks to reduce the backlog for processing enlisted and officer performance reports. It’s able to scan dozens of data points across multiple systems through automation, and can double or triple the output of a human evaluation reviewer. The new system is processing about 20 percent of all evaluations. (Air Force)
  • The Pentagon’s business reform efforts are falling behind, partly because they’ve been starved of funding. A new report by the Government Accountability Office said DoD’s cross-functional teams have come up with 135 separate business reform initiatives over the past two years. But the department has only started to implement 31 of those. GAO said money is a key problem, since the department needs to make some up-front investments to generate long-term savings. The teams need $6.7 billion dollars over the next five years, but the Pentagon hasn’t planned for those funds in its budget. (Government Accountability Office)
  • Wormholes, invisible cloaking, warp drive and dark energy are just a few areas of research the Defense Intelligence Agency has paid for over the last few years. The Federation of American Scientists obtained the list of reports DIA has supported. DIA says the research is part of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification program, which researches potential weapons that could emerge over the next 40 years. (Federation of American Scientists)
  • The departments of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security are teaming up to spread awareness of VA’s suicide prevention resources to veterans who work for DHS. VA said it’ll include information about how DHS employees can enroll in VA services. Twenty-eight percent of employees at DHS are veterans. The goal is to reach more veterans and inform them of their options to join the VA community. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • The final chapter on the brief but stormy tenure of former VA Secretary David Shulkin is out. VA’s inspector general found that Shulkin did not abuse his authority with his use of the department’s executive protective division, but it found Shulkin did violate ethics rules when his wife used a government car and driver. Allegations arose because Shulkin used protection on non-official occasions. The IG recommended written policies developed by VA’s human resources and general counsel offices. (Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General)

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