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Another former member of the Intelligence Community was found to have conspired with Chinese intelligence services. Jerry Chun Shing Lee pled guilty to selling defense information he acquired as a CIA case officer. It’s the third case in less than a year a former member of the IC has been convicted for working with China. (Department of Justice)
A series of familiar cuts to federal pay and benefits are part of the Republican Study Committee’s 2020 budget proposal. The committee said federal employees should be hired and fired at will, and recommends eliminating across-the-board federal pay raises. It also calls for higher employee contributions to federal retirement. The Republican Study Committee also suggests agencies should cut the size of the federal workforce through attrition. The committee has introduced similar proposals in previous years but they rarely make it to appropriations or other spending bills. (Rep. Jim Banks)
A proposed rule looks to fine those who defraud the Defense Department’s TRICARE program. It would use the same monetary penalties that the Department of Health and Human Services uses against medicare fraudsters. The Defense Health Agency said astronomical increases in costs in the TRICARE program due to fraud and abuse require harsher penalties. (Federal Register)
There will be a review of the impact climate change has on military contractors’ ability to respond to national security threats. The Government Accountability Office said it will be looking at climate changes’ potential effects on defense contractors and the military supply chain. The review comes after a request from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). (Sen. Elizabeth Warren)
Airmen and their families living in privatized housing can now call a 24/7 hotline if they have any housing issues. The Air Force set up the line after reports of mice, mold and lead paint in some privatized military housing. The service hopes it will lead to better communication between residents and the housing chain of command. (Air Force)
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan defended the Pentagon’s JEDI contract in Congressional testimony. He acknowledged concerns that the up-to-$10 billion contract is a winner-take-all affair, since the Pentagon has insisted on a single-award IDIQ contract. But he told the House Appropriations Committee they shouldn’t worry about impeding competition, because JEDI will only represent a “small subset” of the department’s long-term moves toward cloud environments. That stance is at odds with some of DoD’s previous statements. As recently as November, it said it planned to move 80% of its applications to JEDI.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology wants to know the current state of artificial intelligence. In a request for information, NIST also asks for future challenges in AI. It plans to use the comments to develop governmentwide AI technical standards required by an executive order President Donald Trump signed in February. NIST will accept comments through the end of May. (Federal Register)
There’s one less leadership vacancy at the Department Homeland Security as Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan swore in the new head of the Secret Service. James Murray became the 26th director of USSS after 23 years at the agency. Most recently he was the Assistant Director of Protective Operations where he was responsible for the overall coordination and implementation of the Secret Service’s protective mission. (U.S. Secret Service)
Agencies are one step closer to getting another tool to recruit cyber workers. The Senate wants to use rotational assignments as a way to make up for a shortage of cybersecurity workers. The upper chamber passed the bi-partisan Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act on Wednesday to create a program to attract and retain civilian employees. Lawmakers hope this approach will let employees with cyber expertise broaden their experience and foster collaborative networks. This program would let employees serve across multiple agencies and gain experience beyond their primary assignment The bill now goes onto the House for consideration. There is no House companion. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
Congress came up empty-handed after a hearing and multiple requests for more information about the Interior Department’s reorganization plans. The House Natural Resources Committee asked Interior for its plans to reorganize its functions across the country into 12 unified regions. which will all share common administrative functions. Interior hasn’t shared its plans with the committee and isn’t promising that it ever will. The department did say contractors are finishing up a review and recommendations for how Interior might streamline its IT, procurement and human capital functions. (Federal News Network)
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers want to restore federal administrative law judges back to the competitive service. A new bill would reverse a 2018 executive order, moving them to the excepted service and out of the Office of Personnel Management’s long hiring and selection process. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) are co-sponsors. The bill also has support from Republican Congressmen Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). Members said administrative law judges are more susceptible to a political hiring process under new system. (House Oversight and Reform Committee)
Four House lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill to end the Postal Service’s mandate to pre-fund health benefits for future postal retirees. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), one of the bill’s sponsors, said the prefunding mandate has contributed to most of the Postal Service’s financial losses for more than a decade. The National Association of Letter Carriers has called the bill an important first step toward postal reform.