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Education Department officials are being urged to strengthen their oversight of student loan servicers. An audit by Education’s inspector general found the department lacks policies and procedures to ensure loan servicers act in compliance with federal law. It found officials rarely used contract clauses to hold loan servicers accountable, and contracts often lacked performance metrics in the first place. Education has contracts with 15 servicers handling more than a trillion dollars worth of loans. Officials agreed with a long list of recommendations. (Department of Education Office of Inspector General)
Both chambers of Congress passed a spending package to avoid another government shutdown, and secure a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian employees this year. The raise applies to the vice president, political appointees and GS-15s who have hit the Executive Schedule ceiling. The spending bill also provides appropriations for the Homeland Security Department, Census Bureau, IRS, General Services Administration and other agencies who have been without full fiscal 2019 funding. The President is expected to sign it today. (Federal News Network)
Looking ahead to possible future shutdowns, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) submitted a bill which would protect federal employees from losing their security clearances for financial reasons under future shutdowns. It prohibits revoking a security clearance because of an employee’s credit score reduction as the result of a shutdown. More than 10 senators have co-sponsored the bill. (Sen. Ben Cardin)
Fourteen Democratic House members want to stop the Agriculture Department from relocating two of its bureaus. The Agriculture Research Integrity Act would require the USDA to keep both the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the Economic Research Service within the national capital area. It also would require USDA to keep ERS within the purview of the under secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. USDA is reviewing proposals to move both ERS and NIFA to new locations outside of the DC area. (Rep. Steny Hoyer)
Congress should consider drafting comprehensive Internet privacy legislation to better protect consumers’ data, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. GAO says with no privacy law governing how companies collect and use consumer data, we may continue to see data breaches like the one that affected 87 million Facebook users in April 2018. GAO examined current protections from the Federal Trade Commission, but found those efforts mostly concerned financial and internet privacy of children. (Government Accountability Office)
Big changes are coming to the way the Navy teaches its sailors. After a review of its educational organization, the Navy is consolidating its schools into one Naval University system. The system will bring together the Naval War College, the Marine Corps University and other schools into one united system to better orchestrate academic and research efforts. The Navy said each school will still retain its individual specialties and characteristics. The Navy will also establish a new Naval Community College by 2021, which will be tailored to enlisted sailors and Marines. (U.S. Navy)
Lawmakers said there are systemic issues with privatized on-base military housing. The Senate Armed Services Committee heard from military families living in rat infested and moldy housing earlier this week. Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said more incentives for maintaining properties and repairing issues quickly are needed. (Federal News Network)
Lawmakers have a new idea to keep at least one member on the Merit Systems Protection Board. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced a bill to extend the term for lone board member Mark Robbins to another year. His term currently expires February 28th. There will be no board members if the Senate doesn’t confirm at least one nominee by then. The bill would also prevent him from keeping his job as general counsel at the Office of Personnel Management. (House Oversight and Reform Committee)
A bipartisan group of senators reintroduced a bill to address the National Park Service’s 12 billion dollar maintenance backlog. The Restore Our Parks Act would divert money the government receives from energy development to a restoration fund. Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) introduced similar legislation in the House with more than 90 cosponsors. (Sen. Angus King)
The Technology Modernization Fund remains flush with money, just a lot less than expected. Agencies will have a lot less IT modernization money to compete for in 2019. Congress allocated $25 million for the Technology Modernization Fund in the final version of the omnibus spending bill that passed yesterday. The Trump administration requested $210 million for the fund created under the Modernizing Government Technology Act. The 2019 allocation also is a lot less than what Congress approved in 2018, a total of $100 million.