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Members from both parties on the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested a briefing from Acting Director Rear Adm. Michael Weahkee at the Indian Health Service. They want to know what he’s done, or not, to improve what the committee called the apparent failure of IHS to provide quality health care. Questions about the Service came in a series of media reports about a pedophile staff physician who operated for years while supervisors ignored warnings. (House Energy and Commerce Committee)
National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson said the IRS will need 12-to-18 months to fully recover from the partial government shutdown. Olson, who’s retiring at the end of July, said there’s been an uptick in taxpayers filing for extensions. Her office is looking at whether extending the tax filing season deadline past April 15 would make sense for the IRS. The agency pushed the deadline back by one day last year, because of a Tax Day computer glitch that prevented taxpayers from submitting their returns. (Federal News Network)
A quarter of the Senate signed onto a resolution opposing the Trump administration’s efforts to privatize the U.S. Postal Service. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) led the effort. The administration first proposed privatizing the Postal Service last June, as part of its government reorganization plan. But the White House’s Postal Task Force made no recommendation to privatize the agency in its report last December. (Sen. Gary Peters)
A House lawmaker suggested a complex fix to give more accurate benefits to federal retirees. Congressman John Garamendi (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Fair COLA for Seniors Act to change the formula the Bureau of Labor Statistics currently uses to calculate annual cost of living adjustments for federal and military retirees and veterans to the Consumer Price Index. BLS currently uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers to calculate COLAs. This bill would use the CPI for the Elderly instead. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association said that index more accurately reflects retirees’ spending habits. (Rep. John Garamendi)
House lawmakers question the Federal Communications Commission’s compliance with records management laws and policies. Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seeking details on how the agency is capturing and archiving its communications such as email or social media messages. Among the things Pallone and Doyle want to know more about is the FCC’s rationale for not using the Capstone records management application from National Archives and Records Administration. (House Energy and Commerce Committee)
Members of Congress want answers from the head of Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan about the agency’s San Diego sector compiling a list of reporters, lawyers and activists. Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Bennie Thompson (D-Mich.) wrote to the commissioner, asking for a copy of the list of 59 names and an explanation of why each person is on the list. NBC News first reported the document. Thompson also wanted to know if anyone on the list was stopped for screening or had their cell phones seized. (NBC News)
The Defense Department will soon take over the governmentwide security clearance program. DoD announced plans to move the National Background Investigations System and the people who manage it to the Defense Security Service by October 2020. DoD’s Consolidated Adjudications Facility will also move to DSS by October of this year. The moves are part of the administration’s plan to merge the National Background Investigations Bureau with DSS to create one government security clearance provider. An executive order that would authorize the full merger is still pending. (Federal News Network)
The Trump administration may have identified another Pentagon account to tap in order to fund the president’s border wall. The administration is considering the use of $1 billion in unused 2019 pay and personnel funds. That’s according to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the top Democrat on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Much of the money would come from the Army’s 2019 personnel account. Those funds are available because the Army fell short of its recruiting goals for this year. A smaller amount would come from lower-than expected spending on early retirement incentive payments. (Federal News Network)
A handful of Democratic senators want more protections for military families in privatized housing. The Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act allows commanders to withhold payments to military housing services companies until the houses have been inspected. It would also withhold incentive fees for management companies who fail to fix hazards. The bill is in response to reports of mold, rodents and lead paint in military housing. The Senate Armed Services Committee called the military’s top brass to Capitol Hill on Thursday to address the issue. (Sen. Mark Warner)
A warning from House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Members Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.): Slow and steady wins the race. Both congressmen urged their colleagues and the Department of Veterans Affairs not to rush on electronic health record modernization. They said said VA should evaluate its timeline after installing the new system at the first batch of medical centers. They acknowledged VA’s 10-year implementation timeline for a new EHR is long, but said the department should evaluate its timeline after installing the new system at the first planned medical centers. Some House appropriators have expressed frustration with the 10-year timeline. (House Veterans Affairs Committee Minority)
The Air Force’s first Pitch Day awarded 242 contracts to nontraditional defense small businesses over the past two weeks. But the rapid contract awarding is just the beginning of the Air Force’s effort to expand its industrial base to small innovative companies all over the nation. Will Roper, Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said it’s time the Air Force broke down barriers of entry for businesses who want to work with the military and Pitch Day is a good start. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Homeland Security wants to establish trust zones — but not as a team building activity. When the Office of Management and Budget finalizes the new Trusted Internet Connection policy in the coming weeks, it will be one piece of an emerging approach across government called trust zones. DHS said the new approaches to network cybersecurity will help agencies continue their focus on securing their most important assets. DHS said through TIC, agencies can segment their networks to identify where critical data lives and get away from trying to secure everything.