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A group of nearly 40 senators are urging the appropriations committee to include back pay for federal contractors impacted by the last government shutdown, in an upcoming disaster relief package. They want to include the back pay provision in a supplemental appropriations bill. Sen. Susan Collins, from Maine, was the only Republican to sign on. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Ben Cardin (D-Md.) Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) were part of the group that wrote to Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). (Sen. Chris Van Hollen)
Another federal employee union wants to know what’s going on with the 2019 federal pay raise. President Trump signed a 1.9 percent pay raise into law over three weeks ago. National Federation of Federal Employees President Randy Erwin said it’s taken long enough for the Office of Personnel Management and Office of Management to adjust federal employees’ pay. The President must now sign an executive order, and OPM must issue new locality pay tables, to make it official. (National Federation of Federal Employees)
At least 40,000 federal employees have signed up for one of multiple class action lawsuits against the Trump administration over the recent government shutdown. Washington attorney Heidi Burakiewicz said about 31,000 employees have opted into the lawsuit her law firm filed before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. That’s on top of the 10,000 bargaining unit employees who signed up for a similar suit from the National Treasury Employee Union. A federal judge is considering whether the court will consolidate those lawsuits, and other similar ones. Just 25,000 federal employees opted into a similar lawsuit after the 2013 government shutdown.
It pays to keep an eye on contractors. A former federal contractor plead guilty to theft and embezzlement after stealing as many as 16 tablet computers from the State Department, and selling them online. Andrew Cheevers, from Bowie, Maryland, had been working in information technology for State’s office of inspector general. He’ll be sentenced in June and could face a maximum penalty of 10 years. (Department of Justice)
NASA’s inspector general looks at a critical function, and finds the agency came up short. After looking at NASA’s information security program for 2018, the IG gave the tech staff a rating of two on a scale of one to five. Under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, agencies are supposed to reach at least a level four. The IG found missing or inaccurate system security plans and data, and that system assessments were often done late. It said those post a threat to operations. (NASA Office of the Inspector General)
There’s no comprehensive database showing how much money agencies are taking in from fees and fines, so the Government Accountability Office recommended OMB to create one. GAO said it would help improve transparency, since there’s currently no way for the public or members of Congress to find that data. In addition to OMB sharing more information from its fee database, GAO has recommended OMB shed more light on the limitations of the fee and fine data that’s currently available to the public. (Government Accountability Office)
The Trump administration told the Pentagon to gather data on how much it spends to station troops in allied countries. The apparent goal is to get host nations to raise their financial commitments. The administration sees the effort as one way to get NATO and other allies to boost their own defense budgets. But as Bloomberg News first reported on March 8, the additional costs for nations like Germany and Japan could be dramatic. Several sources told the news agency that Trump is pushing for allied nations to reimburse the U.S. for the full cost of the troops it stations within their borders – plus a premium of 50 percent. (Federal News Network)
As the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service looks to move toward more electronic payments, it’s issuing less paper checks. The Bureau plans to only print 40 million of them by 2020, down from 60 million issued in 2016. Using more electronic payments is one of the goals outlined in the bureau’s 2018 progress statement, which looks to modernize the way it disperses payments, collects debts and reports data. (Federal News Network)
Though Trump is looking to reduce spending, he wants increases in other certain areas. In his fiscal 2020 skinny budget request, he asked for more money to hire more Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He also requested $80 billion or 10 percent more than in 2019 for the Veterans Affairs Department.
Accenture Federal Services said Customs and Border Protection is better positioned than it was to more quickly recruit and hire new Border Patrol agents and field officers. Accenture signed a $297 million contract with CBP, to help the agency recruit more talent. Accenture said it’s been paid $2 million to hire 56 new CBP employees. The company also designed a new digital recruitment network and set up customer service centers to answer applicant questions. The company dismissed a Homeland Security Department inspector general report from last December. The IG said Accenture didn’t live up to the terms of its contract. (Federal News Network)
A former Border Patrol agent gets a nearly 10-year prison sentence for taking bribes from drug smugglers. Robert Hall had earlier plead guilty to accepting up to $50 thousand in exchange for locations of CBP sensors, and unpatrolled roads near the Mexico border. He even gave smugglers keys to unlock gates. (Department of Justice)
The Pentagon is planning to dip into $1 billion of leftover military pay and pension accounts to help pay for a border wall. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the funds are available because Army recruitment is down and a voluntary early military retirement program is being underutilized. Trump declared a hotly debated national emergency on the southern border, which makes some military funds available for the wall. (Federal News Network)
House Armed Services and Appropriations Committee Democrats demand 25 categories of documents related to the use of military funds to build a wall on the southern border. In a letter to the Defense Department, the committees asked for any military objections or concerns with using DoD funds for the wall. The letter also asked for documents relating to a determination by the defense secretary that the situation at the border constitutes a national emergency. (House Appropriations Committee)
The Interior Department is bringing back a familiar face to fill its chief information officer’s role. Bill Vajda started March 4 as Interior’s top technology executive, Federal News Network has confirmed. Vajda replaced Sylvia Burns, who left in August to be the deputy CIO at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Burns served as the CIO of Interior for almost four years. Vajda returned to the federal government after spending the last decade in state government working as the CIO for Alaska from 2017 to 2018 and before that, he spent five years as the city manager for Marquette, Michigan. Previously, Vadja was the Education Department’s CIO from 2006 to 2009 and held senior management positions at the National Security Agency, the IRS and the White House. (Federal News Network)
Phyllis Bayer resigned from her post as assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment. A Navy statement said she will retire to pursue other opportunities. Bayer’s resignation comes as the whole military is embroiled in a privatized military housing scandal where some on-base houses have mold, mice and lead paint. (Navy)