Federal retirees get a win from the Supreme Court

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  • The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a federal retiree who argued the state of West Virginia unfairly taxed his annuity income. The court said states must treat and tax federal retirees the same way they tax retirees who leave state government. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, which had filed an amicus brief with the court on behalf of former federal marshal James Dawson, praised the court’s decision. (National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association)
  • New workforce numbers from the State Department show nearly half of its Senior Executive Service, and almost a quarter of its GS-15 employees, are currently eligible to retire. The agency’s five-year Workforce and Leadership Succession Plan says “nearly all” current senior Foreign Service members will be eligible to retire within the next decade, as will 80 percent of the current civil service SES. The agency said these 10-year projections remain consistent with numbers it reported last year. (Federal News Network)
  • Senate lawmakers are worried the national security agencies are not recruiting a diverse-enough pool of employees. Six of them introduced the National Security Diversity and Inclusion Workforce Act, which would require each national security agency to publicly report on its diversity and inclusion efforts. These include gender, race and other categories. The bill also would require the national security agencies to analyze applicant data to identify areas for improvement in attracting diverse talent, with emphasis on senior and management positions. (Sen. Ben Cardin)
  • Another agency’s inspector general is taking advantage of Oversight.gov. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency posted its first report to the website. Since it launched in October 2017, inspector general offices at the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office have all submitted their first public reports. Seventy-one agency IG offices currently post their public reports to Oversight.gov. (Oversight.gov)
  • A bicameral group of Democrats wants more information from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos about recent personnel changes at the department’s inspector general office. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), ranking member for the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, want to know why the Education Department attempted to move Sandra Bruce out of the acting inspector general position. Peters said Bruce was reinstated after initial congressional inquires. But lawmakers fear the department attempted the move after OIG refused to drop several ongoing investigations. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has nearly 49,000 vacancies, 42,000 of which are at the Veterans Health Administration. VA is required by law to report vacancy numbers every quarter and the most recent VA vacancy report shows nearly 25,000 medical and dental staff openings, as well as nearly 5,500 general administrative unfilled positions. The department is also missing more than 1,200 human resources specialists. VA is hiring about half of its new employees within 80 days. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • A letter to Congress from former top military commanders, leaders and advisers called on the House and Senate to pass a bill that would require universal background checks for all U.S. gun sales. CQ Roll Call reported the letter was sent last week to members of both parties, urging support for HR 8 which would target private gun sales that don’t require background checks under current federal law. Signatures include former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and former Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen. (Roll Call)
  • A Coast Guard lieutenant based in Washington, D.C. was arrested on domestic terror charges. Court documents said Christopher Hasson planned to kill numerous high-profile politicians and journalists. Letters written by Hasson show he identified himself as a white nationalist. Authorities found 15 firearms and a thousand rounds of ammunition after searching his apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland. (WTOP)
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched a new way for the medical industry to understand the agency’s rules and regulations. It’s a podcast called Beyond the Policy, featuring interviews with expert practitioners and designed to help listeners understand updates to CMS’ thousands of pages of rules. The program’s first nine-minute episode featured CMS Chief Medical Officer Kate Goodrich and oncologist Anand Shah discussing details of the 2019 physician fee schedule. (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
  • The Air Force ordered an inspection of all of its 74,500 on-base houses by March 1. The review comes after reports of lead paint, black mold, faulty wiring and rats in privatized, on-base housing military-wide. The service is also asking airmen to document any health or safety risks they see within their homes, and is requiring command teams to give feedback to those reported issues. (Federal News Network)
  • Meanwhile, the Air Force also finalized its strategy to kick out airmen who are unable to deploy for more than one year. The new policy states airmen must meet individual readiness standards, execute wartime mission requirements of their career fields and be current on their fitness assessment to be fit for duty. The service policy comes after the Defense Department released a larger non-deployable policy stating service members who are not able to carry out missions for a year or more must leave the military. (Air Force)
  • The Army issued a nearly $1 billion task order to support military cyber operations. The work went to Perspecta. The company said the task order calls for it to deliver a range of support services to the Army, U.S. Cyber Command, and Defense Department’s Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber over the next five years. (Perspecta)
  • An Energy Department lab is innovating to catch cyber attackers. Cyber experts at Sandia National Lab took the old concept of a static honey pot to attract and learn from cyber attackers and added a new age twist. The program, called HADES, or High-Fidelity Adaptive Deception and Emulation System, makes the honey pot both dynamic and takes on the feel of a real network to fool hackers. Sandia cyber experts created HADES to help them profile adversary movements and automate responses more quickly to better protect networks, and to save time and money. Through HADES, cyber analysts can divert hackers by continuously changing targets while offering defenders an undetectable view of attacker actions. (Associated Press)

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