New bill to provide financial help to feds during government shutdowns

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  • Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) introduced new legislation to require federal regulators to issue guidance, encouraging financial institutions and banks to work with consumers and other business impacted by a government shutdown. Wexton wants financial agencies and institutions to recognize their federal employee customers may face hardships during a shutdown. The bill will also require these institutions to tell Congress about their efforts. (Rep. Jennifer Wexton)
  • The Trump administration wants to cut nearly $300 million from the NIST budget in 2020. Measurements, facilities construction and research programs would lose funding, while cybersecurity and the Manufacturing USA network would see increases between 1 and 2%. NIST Director Walter Copan said the cuts follow the White House’s priorities but he will work with Congress to fine tune the final budget bill. (Federal News Network)
  • House lawmakers are skeptical the 2020 budget request for the Transportation Security Administration will be enough to address attrition, morale and staffing challenges in the new fiscal year. The more than $7 billion request includes cuts to over 800 full time positions, 50 canine positions and critical search programs. Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the administration should focus more on bolstering support for critical TSA programs and not eliminating them. (Federal News Network)
  • Lawmakers are starting to throw around ideas for the 2020 defense authorization bill. House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said he will float two draft bills which he hopes will be incorporated into Congress’ 2020 marquee defense policy bill. One bill will focus on attracting innovative small- and medium-sized businesses to the Defense Department. The Pentagon is looking for those companies to keep it competitive against countries like China and Russia. The second bill will further carry out acquisition policy changes to help the Pentagon buy weapons systems faster and more efficiently.
  • IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said the time is right for the agency to refresh its legacy IT systems, and modernize the programming language it uses for those systems. The agency asked Congress for up to $2.7 billion over six years to modernize its IT systems. For fiscal 2020, the IRS wants $290 million for IT modernization. Rettig said the IRS defends against more than a billion cyber attacks each year, including sophisticated attacks from nation-state actors. (Federal News Network)
  • A new bill would add more rigor to how agencies determine the impact of regulations on small businesses. The legislation from Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) and four others, would require agencies change their rulemaking procedures so that regulatory flexibility analyses address eight factors, like why the agency is considering the action. These include: The reason why the agency is considering this action, the estimated number and type of small entities the proposed rule would apply to and all relevant federal rules which may duplicate, overlap or conflict with the proposed rule. (Sen. James Lankford)
  • The Whistleblower Protection Act celebrated its 30th anniversary this week. The Office of Special Counsel said it received a record high 4,100 complaints of retaliation in 2018. Lawmakers and good government groups said Congress still has more work to do to protect federal whistleblowers. The Government Accountability Project is urging Congress to take up more whistleblower protections that government groups have been pushing for years. The Project on Government Oversight will also launch a resource guide and toolkit for federal employees about their whistleblower rights.
  • The American Postal Workers Union reached out to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, to resolve an impasse in contract negotiations with the Postal Service. APWU President Mark Dimondstein said the union disagrees with the four-tier pay-and-benefits model the USPS proposed for employees. APWU said the mediation process will take about 45 days. The service can recommend a compromise for both parties, but can’t force them to reach a settlement. (American Postal Workers Union)
  • The Army Corps of Engineers awarded nearly $1 billion in contracts, to upgrade sections of the U.S. Mexico border wall. The two contractors, SLSCo and Barnard Construction Company, will remove waist-high fencing in New Mexico and replace it with tall fencing to go up to 30 feet high. (Federal News Network)
  • A major breakthrough in the DoD’s controversial cloud procurement. The Pentagon found the JEDI cloud procurement had not been prejudiced by a former employee, who previously had worked at Amazon. DoD said its investigation revealed the $10 billion program did not suffer from a conflict of interest. DoD did find possible ethical violations, which it referred to its inspector general. DoD also down-selected to two final bidders: Amazon Web Services and Microsoft — leaving Oracle and IBM on the outside. JEDI still faces post-RFP protests in federal court. (Federal News Network)
  • Lt. Gen. Joseph Martin was tapped as the new Army vice chief of staff. Martin will take over for Gen. James McConville, who could be the next Army chief of staff. Martin currently serves as the director of Army staff. Before that, he commanded the first Infantry Division at Fort Riley in Kansas. (Department of Defense)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs insisted it will be ready for the June 6 deadline to stand up a new consolidated community care program under the MISSION Act. Acting Veterans Health Administration Director Richard Stone said it may not be perfect, but VA will be ready to see veteran patients and direct them to community providers in two months. VA said its decision support tool will be ready too. At least one veterans service organization urged VA to push back its implementation timeline. The Disabled American Veterans organization said VA isn’t ready, and doesn’t think it’ll be ready in two months. (Federal News Network)
  • Four agencies collaborated in one of the biggest cases of Medicare fraud ever. The FBI and the Health and Human Services inspector general, together with the IRS criminal investigations division, helped federal prosecutors bring charges against 24 people. Authorities said the defendants bilked Medicare out of $1.7 billion. The alleged scheme was complex, involving kickbacks from medical equipment distributors to medical practitioners, who in turn were working with phony telemedicine companies and crooked overseas call centers. (Department of Justice)
  • A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer plead guilty to stealing federal funds. The Justice Department said Daniel Lerchbacker misused a federal stipend he had requested for housing and his children’s schooling, while stationed in Canada as CBP officer. DOJ said he used nearly $55,000 for unrelated items. (Department of Justice)

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