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Staffing cuts at the IRS have limited its ability to conduct audits. Between 2011 and 2017, the agency cut its enforcement staff by more than 25 percent, according to the Government Accountability Office. Within the same period of time, the number of individual tax returns that had been audited decreased by nearly 40 percent. GAO’s recommendations to the IRS include implementing a delayed workforce planning initiative, and reporting on efforts to close workforce skills gaps. (Government Accountability Office)
The Office of Management and Budget pitched its plans for a proposed federal pay freeze and performance-based awards to a House appropriations subcommittee. Acting Director Russell Vought said OMB will work with agencies to design plans for rewarding top performers using their existing rewards funds. He also defended the proposed plans for an across-the-board pay freeze in 2020. And he added the 1.9 percent retroactive pay raise this year should alleviate some concerns from federal employees. (Federal News Network)
Another one of the Trump administration’s workforce ideas faces opposition from a major federal union. The American Federation of Government Employees came out against the proposed reorganization of the Office of Personnel Management. AFGE said it’s irresponsible and dangerous to move most of OPM functions to the General Services Administration, and then create a new federal personnel policy office within the Office of Management and Budget. AFGE says it doesn’t have a clear understanding of how the proposed merger would impact federal employees. (American Federation of Government Employees)
The Federal Labor Relations Authority is one step closer to getting a new general counsel, and therefore being able to hear cases brought by federal employee unions again. President Trump plans to nominate Catherine Bird. She’s currently principal deputy assistant secretary for administration at the Health and Human Services Department, for a five-year term. All cases must be vetted through its general counsel before the FLRA board can consider them. Without a general counsel over the last two years, the board has been slowed. (White House)
The House Oversight and Reform Committee passed a bill to “ban the box,” prohibiting federal agencies and contractors from asking job applicants about their criminal history until after they’ve made an offer. Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said it will give formerly incarcerated people a fair chance at a job in the federal workforce. The committee rejected several amendments that would’ve exempted federal contractors from the bill or limited their liability. (Federal News Network)
Another bill passed in the House Oversight Committee would require the president to notify Congress about inspector general vacancies lasting longer than 210 days. The IG Protection Act would also require the president give lawmakers a target date for the administration to submit a nomination for those vacant watchdog posts. Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), one of the bill’s cosponsors, said the bill would ensure IG offices remain adequately staffed. (Federal News Network)
The State Department has its first permanent chief information officer in more than 15 months. Secretary Mike Pompeo named Stuart McGuigan as the agency’s new CIO and head of the Bureau of Information Resource Management. McGuigan will replace Karen Mummaw, who is retiring in April. He also becomes the first permanent CIO since December 2017. This is McGuigan’s first experience in the public sector, coming to State after serving as CIO of Johnson & Johnson and other private sector companies. Additionally, Federal News Network has learned that Michael Mestrovich will join the department as the principal deputy CIO on April 1. He comes from the CIA, where he is technical director of the Technical Services Office. (Federal News Network)
President Donald Trump nominated Air Force General Jay Raymond to lead the newly reestablished U.S. Space Command. Raymond is currently serving as the leader of Air Force Space Command, a job he’ll continue even if he’s confirmed. The Defense Department asked for nearly $84 million for Space Command in its 2020 budget request. (Department of Defense)
Key lawmakers appear to be losing patience with the Trump administration’s slowness in nominating a new Secretary of Defense. The chairmen of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees made separate statements yesterday urging the president to nominate a permanent secretary. One possible candidate is Patrick Shanahan, the deputy secretary who’s now serving as acting secretary. He’s been serving in that role since Jim Mattis stepped down at the end of last year — only the third time in the department’s history it’s been led by an acting secretary. (Associated Press)
House Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said she will not replenish 2019 money for military construction in her mark of the 2020 appropriations bill if DoD uses the funds to build the border wall. Recently, DoD released a list of possible military construction projects that could be deferred if military construction funds are used for the wall. President Donald Trump declared the southern border a national emergency, which opens up military construction funds for use.
The Interior Department wants about $1.5 billion less for fiscal 2020 than 2019. About $28 million would go toward reorganization efforts. Lawmakers want to know more about the reorg funding and other budget ideas, including cuts to national park service maintenance funds and grant programs. Chairwoman Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) on the Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior said she expects to ask the future Interior secretary the same questions, should the president’s nominee get confirmed by the Senate. (Federal News Network)
Some lawmakers aren’t happy with the Energy Department’s fiscal 2020 budget request. House Appropriations Energy Subcommittee Chairwoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) said the proposed 11 percent decrease in funding will hurt critical nuclear and national security programs. She said it could put the U.S. at a disadvantage with foreign competitors. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the agency needs to focus more on research and development in 2020, not on numbers. (House Appropriations Energy Subcommittee)
IT challenges are putting other major initiatives at the Veterans Affairs Department at risk. VA says it can’t be sure a decision support tool to help its providers determine whether veterans qualify for private care under the MISSION Act will be ready by its June deadline. VA says it’s also not sure it’ll meet an October 1 deadline. It’s supposed to certify a new commercial IT system is ready to automate payments for families under the new caregivers program. The agency said it will manually send out checks to newly eligible families if the new system isn’t ready in October. (Federal News Network)