Congressman takes aim at federal travel with series of bills

In today's Federal Newscast, Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-Ariz.) said he is on a "journey" to make sure federal agencies don't abuse federal travel plans.

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  • A two term Congressman wants to hold agencies more accountable for their excursions. Rep.  Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) introduced five ethics and transparency bills, four of which aim to cut costs for federal employees’ travel. One is the Taxpayers DIME Act, which would ensure no taxpayer money is spent on government air travel that violates rules applied to senior federal officials, increases transparency and oversight of government travel, and calls for the independent Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to report on ways to strengthen existing rules. (Rep. Tom O’Halleran)
  • President Trump announced his third pick in two years to lead the Office of Personnel Management. Trump said he will nominate Dale Cabaniss to be permanent OPM director. Cabaniss previously served as chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority during the George W. Bush administration. She also led the Republican staff on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government for eight years. Margaret Weichert has been juggling two jobs as OPM’s acting director, and deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget for the past five months. (Federal News Network)
  • A gentle reminder to agencies, make sure you clear any documents with the Office of Management and Budget before releasing the information publicly. Acting OMB Director Russ Vought said everything from budget requests to congressional testimony to draft legislation must go through the OMB clearance process. Additionally, Vought reminded agencies that they should be working with the White House’s cabinet affairs, communications and legislative affairs offices when developing and executing media and legislative strategies. (White House)
  • The Trump administration said it’s pleased with the initial response to its call for applicants for the Federal Cyber Reskilling Academy and may expand plans for future cohorts. Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent said agencies are already making plans to accept the initial graduates of the academy as future cyber defense analysts. Over half the applicants were at levels between GS-5 through GS-11. Kent said those grades hit the sweet spot, where the administration believes it can make an impact with its training. (Federal News Network)
  • The president signed an executive order to help reduce shortfalls in the nation’s merchant marine workforce. The U.S. Maritime Administration said it faces a gap of about 1,800 civilian mariners. The new order is meant to address that gap by bolstering it with service members separating from the military. It aims to set up a streamlined credentialing process for members who’ve already worked in the sea services. The order would also waive credentialing fees for veterans looking to move to the merchant marine. (White House)
  • The IRS wasted more than $3 million on unused software licenses between 2015 and 2017. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration also said the agency did not follow the Federal Acquisition Regulations and IRS guidance when it purchased software tools from IBM. TIGTA recommended the IRS annually review its software subscriptions. (Department of the Treasury)
  • The Department of Homeland Security has made a decision about one of its two multi-billion dollar IT contracts — there will not be an EAGLE III IT services contract. After two successful vehicles on which DHS spent billions of dollars since 2005, chief procurement officer Soraya Correa announced the agency will move a lot of the work to existing governmentwide acquisition contracts from the General Services Administration and the National Institutes of Health. DHS, however, will create EAGLE NextGen to meet agency-specific needs around cloud, agile and systems integration services. Correa said she also will make a decision about the future of the IT products contract called First Source by the end of March. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force has a new comprehensive strategy for changing its business processes through the service over the next two years. The Air Force called for a readiness panel to improve senior-level decision making by 2021 and using more state-of-the-art analytic tools to harness data by mid-2021. It’s focused on the military’s plan to counter Russian and Chinese technological advancements in warfare. (Federal News Network)
  • Jay Cooper is the new associate director of research for business operations at the Naval Research Laboratory. Cooper will be responsible for providing leadership, policy ideas and enacting programs necessary to support the laboratory. He formerly served as the comptroller for the Office of Naval Research. (Office of Naval Research)
  • The first meeting of the White House’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board is set for March 6. The Commerce Department announced last month it will include the CEO’s of Lockheed Martin, IBM and Apple. Reuters reported that most of them are scheduled to attend. The meeting is set to last three hours and will be live-streamed. (Reuters)
  • A high level official from the Obama administration will leave the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Charles Yi announced he will leave his post as FDIC’s general counsel at the end of March, after four years on the job. Before joining the banking insurance agency, Yi was staff director and general counsel for the House committee on financial services. That was after stints at private law firms. An Army veteran, Yi reached the rank of captain. (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)
  • Recently confirmed EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler announced some new additions to the agency’s staff. Mara Kamen will serve as the agency’s new career director of human resources. She was the head of the Small Business Administration’s HR office. Wheeler also picked Michael Molina to serve as his new deputy chief of staff. He was the senior adviser to the EPA’s deputy administrator. (Environmental Protection Agency)
  • A program to assess poisonous chemicals has been throttled back by EPA appointed officials. That’s according to the Government Accountability Office. Auditors found that staff running the Integrated Risk Information System were told last summer to stop issuing their assessments unless requested by their program office leadership. Program leadership was in turn told to limit requests to the top three or four assessments. Then IRIS program staff members were told to spend up to half their time on other work. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) requested the GAO audit. (Government Accountability Office)

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