DoD authorizes up to $1 billion for wall at U.S. southern border

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  • Up to $1 billion from the Pentagon is now available to help support the Department of Homeland Security’s drug enforcement efforts at the southern border. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan authorized the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use the money partly for a 57-mile long, 18-foot tall fence along the border. (Defense Department)
  • A proposal designed to consolidate federal employees’ leave and sick time is drawing criticism from federal employee unions. The Trump administration slipped the recommendation to combine federal employees’ annual and sick leave into one paid time off category into its 2020 budget request. National Federation of Federal Employees President Randy Erwin questioned whether there was a business case for the leave proposal, and said the White House should “keep its hands off” federal employee leave. (National Federation of Federal Employees)
  • The National Association of Letter Carriers is pushing back against the White House postal task force’s recommendations. Jim Sauber,  NALC chief of staff, said the recommendations amount to a “shot in the dark,” and wants the task force to instead prioritize fixing a 2006 mandate to pre-fund postal retiree health benefits. Sauber said the Postal Service currently has $50 billion set aside in that fund, enough to last 15 years into the future. (Federal News Network)
  • Among other issues, the Postal Service may need to update how it maintains it’s big rig trucks. A report from the agency’s inspector general found USPS’ system for monitoring tire usage and failures for its bigger vehicles has some serious flaws. For one thing, the Solution for Enterprise Asset Management System it uses only lets mechanics enter information for four tires, when most of the 7- to 11-ton vehicles have up to 10 tires. The IG recommended either updating the SEAM system or finding a new one altogether. (U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General)
  • A return to normalcy for Thrift Savings Plan participants. With the government shutdown ending, The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board said hardship withdrawals are down 44 percent in March over the previous month. The Board said it had nearly 13,000 hardship withdrawals open in February, compared with 7,200 this month. Participation among active-duty military members is climbing too. A record-high 61 percent of active-duty members are now participating in the TSP.
  • It may be tough for the Defense Department’s Space Force to get off the ground. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Calif.) said he will look into other legislative options for it. Smith said his concerns revolve around the size of the force, which is proposed to be about 16,000 people. Smith said he is also concerned about the proposal’s request to waive civil service rules, pay rates and merit-based hiring. (House Armed Services Committee)
  • DoD spent $4 billion on other transaction agreements in 2018, according to a new analysis from Bloomberg Government, up from $2.1 billion in 2017. Nearly half of the money spent went directly to traditional defense and IT contractors. Other transaction agreements are supposed to be for smaller companies to bring new ideas to the department. (Federal News Network)
  • The Pentagon will ask Congress for supplemental funding to recover from a tough year of storm damage on several of its bases. DoD already requested $3.6 billion in funding for storm relief as part of its 2020 budget. These funds would be above and beyond that amount. According to a memo from Shanahan, obtained by Defense News, the Pentagon estimated the total recovery cost at about $9 billion. The money would be put partly toward rebuilding from hurricanes that hit Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida last year. (Defense News)
  • Following the two crashes of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the Transportation Department is forming a special committee, to review just how the Federal Aviation Administration certified the design. The committee will include former head of U.S. Transportation Command Air Force Gen. Darren McDew, along with former President of the Air Line Pilots Association Captain Lee Moak. (Department of Transportation)
  • Two more vendors under the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract passed the last remaining test to begin offering services. Agencies now have three vendors to chose from with Verizon and AT&T joining CenturyLink in receiving their authority to operate from GSA, by meeting the security requirements under EIS. The vendors can now accept and process telecommunications and IT modernization task orders or service orders, provision or deliver services and bill for services. (General Services Administration)
  • Federal payroll processing may be ready for another consolidation. Over the last few months, the Trump administration has signaled in several ways that there will be major changes to the way the government processes payroll. It started with awards to two teams of vendors to provide payroll modernization services in September. Now the General Services Administration released a draft request for information last week seeking details on how to modernize payroll processing for as many as 300,000 customers. Additionally, sources confirmed to Federal News Network that OMB will lay out its shared services strategy in a new memo expected in the next month. (Federal News Network)
  • Ten former lawmakers and more than three dozen advocacy groups want congressional appropriators to give their own branch more funding. Roll Call reported the authors are warning that if Congress does not invest more in the legislative branch now, it likely will become incapable of serving as a co-equal branch of government in the future. The groups, including the Congressional Management Foundation, the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University and the R Street Institute, point out major challenges facing Congress “that threaten to strain existing resources beyond the breaking point.” (Roll Call)

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