Senators want to disband VA review committee, before it’s even formed

In today's Federal Newscast, two senators want to reverse steps Congress took last year to begin a comprehensive review of medical facilities at the Veterans Af...

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  • Two senators want to reverse steps Congress took last year to begin a comprehensive review of medical facilities at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sens Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced a bill to revoke the VA Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, which hasn’t even been formed yet. Nine members are supposed to start a “BRAC-like” study of VA medical centers and the veterans population in each market in 2022. Manchin and Rounds said they support VA’s plans to cut red tape but fear the review will close facilities in their states. (Sen. Joe Manchin)
  • The 2019 federal pay raise is official. President Donald Trump signs an executive order finalizing a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian employees this year. It will be retroactive to Jan. 6. The Office of Personnel Management updated its pay tables to reflect new adjustments in across-the-board and locality pay. Some 72,000 federal employees in the six newly established locality pay areas will now see slight differences in their total pay. (Federal News Network)
  • Leadership from the House Ways and Means, and Senate Finance committees reintroduced a bill to modernize taxpayer services at the IRS. The bill would set up an independent Office of Appeals at the IRS, and require the agency to submit a restructuring plan to Congress. The bill would also seek to prevent private debt collectors, hired by the IRS, from targeting low-income households. (House Ways and Means Committee)
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers want the Government Accountability Office to give an update on how agencies have complied with the Freedom of Information Act. The review would look at steps agencies have taken to implement the 2016 FOIA Improvement Act. In its 2018 report, GAO found 18 agencies had only applied half of the FOIA requirements and several agencies had FOIA request backlogs in the thousands. (House Oversight and Reform Committee)
  • A former NSA contractor plead guilty to stealing classified information for more than 23 years. Harold Martin of Glen Burnie, Maryland, admitted to stealing and keeping a vast quantity of highly classified government information between 1993 and 2016. If the court accepts his plea, Martin will be sentenced in July to nine years in prison for willful retention of national defense information. (Department of Justice)
  • An investigation has substantiated two allegations of misconduct by the military’s top enlisted member. The Defense Department IG’s report found Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, used military personnel in improper ways, including for personal errands, and endorsed commercial fitness and nutrition products on DoD’s official social media channels. Still, Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford reinstated Troxell to his position after a brief reassignment. Dunford said his 37 years of military service outweighs the violations, and that the agency has taken corrective actions. (Federal News Network)
  • Senate lawmakers questioned acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s ethical fitness to lead the department. Bernhardt served at Interior during President George W. Bush’s administration, but his years as a lobbyist for the oil, gas and mining industries are a sticking point for several Democrats on the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. President Trump nominated Bernhardt to replace Ryan Zinke, who left the agency in December amid several investigations into his actions as secretary. (Federal News Network)
  • Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the Pentagon is weeks away from announcing who the leader of the proposed Space Force will be. The Force still has a long road ahead before it is actually established. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Space Force proposal on April 11. The committee is critical in the creation of the force since it has jurisdiction over the national defense authorization bill, which would be used as a vehicle to create the military branch. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Calif.) recently said he will seek other legislative options than the White House proposal when it comes to building a Space Force.
  • Officials from the Census Bureau are confident the 2020 census website will be able to handle major web traffic next year. Michael Thieme, assistant director for decennial census programs, systems and contracts, said up to 120,000 users could respond to the census online at any one time, but the site will be able to support at least 600,000 concurrent users. The bureau expects more than 60 percent of respondents to complete the census online. (Federal News Network)
  • The Justice Department detailed new strategic IT goals for the next four years. Justice chief information officer Joe Klimavicz is on a consolidation tear. Over the past year, Justice moved out of a 30-year-old, 100,000 square foot data center. The agency reduced the number of financial management systems down to one, and is close to doing the same for its grant management systems. These initiatives are examples of Klimavicz’s long term plans outlined in his new IT strategy released earlier this month. Over the next four years, Klimavicz said he’s focused on improving service delivery, making effective investments, protecting data and systems and bringing innovation to the department. (Department of Justice)
  • Senate Intelligence Committee members introduced a bill to protect the personal electronic devices and accounts of senators and their staff from cyber threats. The Senate Cybersecurity Protection Act, introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), would allow the Senate Sergeant at Arms to provide voluntary cybersecurity assistance to senators and certain Senate staff to secure their personal devices and accounts. The SAA said it’s currently prohibited from using public funds to help protect non-government issued devices and accounts. (Sen. Ron Wyden)

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