Federal Labor Relations Board ending relations with its labor union

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  • The agency designed to ensure other departments are bargaining in good faith with their federal employees unions is ending its relationship with its own union. Federal Labor Relations Authority Chairwoman Colleen Kiko is no longer acknowledging the Union of Authority Employees. Union President Fernando Colon said Kiko made the decision in December. The union said it bargained on behalf of FLRA employees for 40 years, and shows a “unprecedented policy shift” from President Donald Trump’s administration. (Union of Authority Employees)
  • Chairs of the House Homeland Security and Appropriations Committee want to expand collective bargaining rights for Transportation Security Administration officers. Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) reintroduced legislation to classify TSA agents under Title V, which would put them under the General Schedule and allow them to grieve with a federal employee union. Thompson and Lowey said TSA officers would likely earn slightly higher wages under the General Schedule, compared to their current positions as wage grade employees. (House Homeland Security Committee)
  • If you called the IRS during the partial government shutdown and got no answer, don’t take it personally. The National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson told Congress the 35-day partial government shutdown hurt the IRS’s ability to answer its phones. During the first week of the filing season, IRS accounts management — the agency’s primary point of contact for taxpayer questions — answered less than half of its incoming calls, keeping callers waiting an average of 17 minutes. By comparison, the agency answered 86 percent of calls sent to accounts management in the first week of last year’s filing season, and only kept callers waiting for an average of four minutes. (Federal News Network)
  • Twenty-four agencies have until May 10 to come up with a plan to become fully interoperable with FOIA.gov. Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert and Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio said agencies under the Chief Financial Officer’s Act should include an estimated cost and timeframe of when they will connect to FOIA.gov through an Application Programming Interface, or API. Last May, the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy launched the first iteration of its National FOIA Portal, aimed at serving as a one-stop shop for Freedom of Information Act requests. (White House)
  • The Office of Personnel Management will continue to use ID Experts to provide free credit monitoring services for victims of the agency’s 2015 cyber breaches. The contract started on the first of the year and runs through June 2020. ID Experts said the contract has a five year option and is worth over $400 million. OPM by law is required to provide free credit monitoring services for cyber breach victims through 2025. (Federal News Network)
  • Customs and Border Protection wants people to know the agency is doing its part to ensure a safe Valentine’s Day. With the holiday comes a rush of imported flowers. The influx is particularly heavy at the Laredo, Texas entry and at Los Angeles International Airport. CBP employs agricultural experts to stop banned plant products — like chrysanthemums from Mexico — and inspect allowed ones to make sure they’re free of bugs or disease. CBP expects to inspect one billion cut-stem flowers by tomorrow. (Customs and Border Protection)
  • Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) joined Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) as the co-chairman of the Select Committee on Modernizing Congress. Republican leadership named him and five others to complete the 12-person select committee. It’s charged with providing recommendations to improve how Congress works. The Democrats named their members in early January. The House tasked the committee to provide recommendations over the next year on an assortment of ways to improve how Congress works. These include staff recruitment and training, back-office efficiencies and technology innovations. (Rep. Tom Graves)
  • Two Freshman senators are looking to make being a member of Congress a little less lucrative. Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced legislation to end taxpayer funded pensions for members. Braun told Yahoo news pensions are “archaic,” and many people don’t even get one anymore. He said they should instead use their Thrift Savings Plan. A 2017 congressional research service report said there were 611 retired members receiving federal pensions as of October 2016. (Yahoo News)
  • Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) wants a $750 billion budget for the Defense Department in 2020. Inhofe told reporters this week that he is open to allowing DoD to stuff emergency war accounts with base budget items to circumvent budget caps and reach the $750 billion top line. DoD’s budget is expected to be made public in early March. Congress appropriated $684 billion in base funding for the Pentagon In 2019. (Federal News Network)
  • Inhofe also joined the ranks of other high profile lawmakers on military related committees in opposing the use of military construction funds for a border wall. If Trump decides to declare a national emergency to build the wall, military construction funds could be opened for use. Military construction funds go into building and maintaining bases, barracks and other defense infrastructure. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) also opposed using defense funds for the wall. (Federal News Network)
  • DoD took the wrapping paper off its new artificial intelligence center and strategy. The Joint AI Center (JAIC) is officially open for business and already spearheading two pilot programs. DoD did a soft-launch of the center last June, but with Trump signing an AI executive order Monday, the Pentagon released a new departmentwide strategy and offered the first details about the JAIC. The center is working with an interagency group to apply AI tools to managing wild fires. It also is working with the Special Forces Command on a preventive maintenance effort for H-60 helicopters. (Department of Defense)

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