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The Labor Department will pilot a faster approach to discretionary suspension and debarment with its Inspector General and its Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management. DOL said its goal is to reduce the processing time on discretionary suspension and debarment actions from months to days through increased efficiency and sharing of information based on indictments or convictions. A vendor could face a discretionary suspension and debarment if they are charged with or are convicted of discrimination based on race, religion, gender identity, sex or national origin, as well as sexual harassment. The one year pilot kicked off earlier this month. (Department of Labor)
For the first time since fiscal 2011, the U.S. Postal Service paid down nearly $2 billion of its $15 billion debt. However, the Postal Regulatory Commission also found USPS’ price increases last year did not bring in enough revenue to offset declining mail volumes. The Postal Service reported a $2.1 billion net loss in fiscal 2018. (Postal Regulatory Commission)
U.S. troops looking to leave the military will see a change to the Pentagon’s program for doing so. Starting this fall, service members will have to finish the Transition Assistance Program and fill out a self-evaluation one year before exiting the service. The changes were mandated in the 2019 defense authorization act. (Department of Defense)
The Defense Information Systems Agency’s workforce and budget are about to grow in significant ways. The Pentagon’s 2020 budget called for DISA to be the single IT service provider for the DoD agencies outside the military services. DISA would absorb more than 1,000 employees and nearly $1 billion in IT funding from the “fourth estate” agencies, who are currently running their own networks and computing systems. It’s part of a consolidation effort directed by DoD’s chief management officer, called the Fourth Estate Network Optimization Initiative. (Federal News Network)
The Energy Department will award up to $20 million dollars to develop new artificial intelligence research. More than half of those funds will go specifically toward developing new AI algorithms and software which can adapt to specific scientific scenarios. DOE national laboratories, universities and industrial and nonprofit organizations can apply for funding. The agency will accept applications through May 1. (Department of Energy)
Another victim of the 35-day partial government shutdown is the General Services Administration’s plans for the e-commerce marketplace initiative. GSA said it will send the mandated report about its plans for Phase II of the implementation of the effort to Congress in the next few weeks. Congress initially set a deadline of mid-March for the information. Lawmakers want GSA to describe its plans for the pilot expected to kick off later this year. (General Services Administration)
The Government Accountability Office flagged the Department of Homeland Security’s headquarters consolidation as a key priority concern. GAO said the DHS secretary should specifically work with the GSA administrator to work out a revised consolidation plan. Both agencies told GAO they’re drafting a new plan that should be finished by December. DHS consolidation is one of five priority open recommendations that GAO made for the agency. (Government Accountability Office)
A second public update from the Veterans Benefits Administration will be coming later this week. VA’s benefits Undersecretary Paul Lawrence and Appeals Management Executive Director Dave McLenachen will discuss the implementation of the appeals modernization program via webinar. The webinar will air on Thursday. VBA will also discuss a new tele-counseling initiative and its plans for the 75th anniversary of the original GI bill. You can register at benefits.va.gov.
Environmental Protection Agency officials celebrate Earth Day by highlighting progress close to home. Administrator Andrew Wheeler will join D.C. officials to mark an improvement in one of the most intractable local pollution sites, the Anacostia River. EPA, D.C. Water and the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment will show off skimmer boats that fish trash out of the river. And point out the cleansing effects of a year-old tunnel to keep sewage out of the Anacostia. They’ll be joined by the Japanese ambassador to the U.S.