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Wait times for most appointments at the Department of Veterans Affairs are down from three years ago. A study in the Journal of American Medicine Association found veterans waited fewer days in 2017 than 2014 for an appointment. Wait times for primary care and most specialty care appointments in the VA beat the private sector. Veterans waited an average of 18 days in 2017 for specialty care, compared to nearly 23 days in 2014. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
Excepted employees working full time and without pay during the government shutdown can not apply for unemployment benefits. But those who have part-time jobs with agencies usually can. The Office of Personnel Management also said some states may waive the requirement that federal employees show they’re looking for other work to be eligible for unemployment. Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia already said they’ll waive the eligibility requirement. (Federal News Network)
A senior administration official said it’s unclear if a partial government shutdown will hinder the roll out of some of the President’s Management Agenda’s quarterly goals. But the PMA goals do have multiple sources of funding. The Office of Management and Budget planned to release a one-year draft action plan for its federal data strategy prior to the shutdown. (Federal News Network)
GSA is on the cusp of finishing the consolidation of a major system holding contractor data. The Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) is on its way out. GSA said it will officially retire PPIRS when it concludes the system’s merger with the Contract Performance Assessment Reporting System or (C-PARS). The agency said the merger of the two systems will simplify functions such as creating and editing performance and integrity records, making changes to administering users and running reports, generating performance records, as well as viewing and managing performance records. This latest step is part of GSA’s decade-long effort to consolidate and modernize 10 contractor databases. (General Services Administration)
The Energy Department will invest $15 million on research on how best to recycle lithium batteries. The new R&D Recycling Center will focus on cost-effective recycling processes to recover lithium battery materials. The Argonne National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory will lead the research center. Additionally, Energy is offering $5.5 million as part of a new battery recycling prize challenge. The goal is to find innovative solutions to collecting, storing and transporting discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling. (Department of Energy)
The Pentagon is once again turning to Alphabet technical adviser Eric Schmidt. Schmidt — already the chair of the Defense Innovation Board — will lead the National Security Commission of Artificial Intelligence. The commission is allocated $10 million to assess U.S. competitiveness in artificial intelligence, investments in AI and workforce incentives to attract talent. Other commissioners on the panel include Bob Work, former deputy defense secretary, and Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services.
There’s going to be another Naval consortium to enter into other transaction agreements with nontraditional defense companies. This newest consortium is focused on surface naval warfare and will explore how to use technology to address current and future threats in the surface and maritime environment. The Navy is setting up OTA consortia for all of its systems commands, allowing them to invest one hundred million dollars each. (FedBizOpps)
The Marine Corps is setting up a new organization to defend its technology from adversaries. It’s called the Marine Corps Capability Protection Cell. The Corps said it will have “cross cutting” representation from its installations, IT, personnel, acquisitions, operations and other communities. The group will be led by the deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations. The Marines said the goal is to counter threats by global competitors to the service’s testing and training areas, critical infrastructure and supply chains, and overall technical advantage. (Marines)
A pilot program aimed at finding cheaper ways to deliver mail in remote parts of Alaska gets the axe. The Postal Service planned to launch a one-year partnership with Lynden Transport, to deliver mail to hard-to-reach communities by land, sea and air. A Postal Service spokesman confirmed the pilot’s cancellation, but didn’t explain why. The agency has posted 12 straight years of net losses. (Associated Press)