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More than 17 years after Pentagon’s most expensive weapons acquisition first started, the Navy said its version of the F-35 is ready for combat. It announced on Thursday afternoon that its variant — the F-35C — has reached initial operating capability. The service said the IOC designation means not only that the fighter can safely operate from aircraft carriers, but that its first operational squadron is fully trained and equipped to conduct real-world missions. The Navy said it’s now preparing that squadron for its first overseas deployment. (Navy)
In an effort to improve morale at the Department of Homeland Security, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the House Homeland Security committee, introduced the DHS MORALE Act. It would require the agency to create a catalog for leadership development opportunities, as well as an employee engagement steering committee to make recommendations to the secretary. DHS has routinely ranked near the bottom of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. (House Homeland Security Committee)
Maryland and Virginia senators want an update from the Office of Management and Budget about the timing of federal employees’ 1.9 percent pay raise. All four of them wrote to acting OMB Director Russell Vought. A spokeswoman for Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) told Federal News Network earlier this week federal employees should expect to see the raise in mid-March or early April paychecks. (Sen. Chris Van Hollen)
Sen. Gary Peters, (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked the Trump administration about its travel spending during the 35-day partial government shutdown. In a letter to OMB, Peters asked for the number of trips senior officials took during the shutdown, and how many trips were cancelled because of the lapse in funding. The senator also asked for the administration’s guidance to agencies about travel during the shutdown. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
With no time left, the Merit Systems Protection board is left with no members. The Senate did not pass legislation to extend the holdover term for the last remaining member Mark Robbins, whose last day was yesterday. There were also no votes to confirm either of the President’s two nominees to restore the board’s quorum. Robbins said he’s directed his staff to carry on their work without him. The MSPB general counsel will take over day-to-day agency operations. (Federal News Network)
Momentum is building for Congress to restore the Office of Technology Assessment. Maurice Turner, a former Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs staffer, said congressional committees — also facing reduced staffing levels — have turned to think tanks and associations for the research OTA used to do. Daniel Schuman, a former Congressional Research Service attorney, now the policy director for Demand Progress, estimated there are 1,000 fewer congressional staffers now than there were 25 years ago. Congress defunded OTA back in 1995. (Federal News Network)
The EPA’s newly confirmed administration has a full plate. Andrew Wheeler was confirmed on a party-line vote, months after being named acting administrator. He’ll have to push the agency through the Trump administration’s new rules on waterways and water reuse, faster approvals of energy projects and the re-setting of goals for automobile fuel efficiency. Wheeler, who has lobbied for energy companies, had an earlier EPA stint during the George H. W. Bush administration. He also spent time as a Senate staff member. (Federal News Network)
As artificial intelligence advances, two lawmakers have been pushing for stronger ethics around the technology. Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) introduced a resolution to create guidelines to compel government, industry, academia and organizations to protect data privacy, civil liberties and transparency on their journey to improve AI technology. The resolution also called for AI that empowers marginalized groups, provides access to benefits and protects meaningful job opportunities. (Rep. Ro Khanna)
There will be a new framework this year to significantly change how government determines suitability, credentials and security clearances for federal employees and contractors. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been working with the Office of Personnel Management, industry, Congress and other agencies to set new guiding principles for the federal personnel vetting process. Specific policies will be rolled out throughout 2019. The goal will be to get employees cleared more quickly, and give them more flexibility to take clearances with them, in and out of government. (Federal News Network)
New guidance from the intelligence community’s CIO instructed all 17 IC agencies to analyze their networks from headquarters to the field office, to the very edge of the enterprise for cybersecurity vulnerabilities. John Sherman, the IC CIO, said the agencies have until the end of 2020 to close any gaps they find. Sherman said the goal is to address known systems and applications as well those in the shadows. He said he will monitor progress and share the results with the executive leadership of each agency.
Just over $1 billion will go toward rebuilding Air Force installations affected by past hurricanes. A disaster relief bill introduced by eight senators will direct about $700 million toward actual military construction and would be available until 2023. The other $400 million would be set aside for operations and maintenance, and have a one year life span. Last year, Tyndall Air Force Base was destroyed by Hurricane Michael. Rebuilding efforts are still underway. (Sen. David Perdue)
The first integrated class of airmen in the U.S. Air Force has graduated from the recruitment schoolhouse. It’s the first time active duty, guard and reserve airmen trained together. Putting all airmen together ensures no matter what area of the Air Force they are in, they still have the same basic education. (Air Force)