Despite new law, VA still struggling to fire DC facility director

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  • After the Department of Veterans Affairs’ second attempt at firing the director of its Washington, D.C. facility, VA’s case against Brian Hawkins is reportedly falling apart and he will be reinstated. ProPublica reported that Hawkins will be receiving back pay and will be back on the job. He was fired after a 2017 inspector general report revealed dirty storage areas and supply shortages that were endangering patients. His firing came on the heels of a new accountability law which was meant to make it easier to fire people at VA. (ProPublica)
  • A legislative proposal describing plans to merge the Office of Personnel Management with the General Services Administration is now on Capitol Hill. The proposal from acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought sets up a new Office of Federal Workforce Policy at OMB, and transfers all responsibilities of the OPM director to the GSA administrator. The OPM director would manage a new national service within GSA that handles employee health, retirement, insurance and human capital. (Federal News Network)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General is urging the agency to consider recovering $124,000 in excessive travel expenses from former administrator Scott Pruitt. The office reviewed more than 40 trips, costing nearly $1 million. About half of those costs went towards travel for Pruitt’s security team. The IG pushed back on Pruitt’s claims of using first- and business-class travel for security purposes. (Associated Press)
  • Three Senate democrats are hoping the EPA’s inspector general will investigate possible ethics violations of another high ranking official. The senators said public reports show EPA Associate Administrator Elizabeth “Tate” Bennet met with her previous employer, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, just weeks into her starting the role. The meeting was apparently about media strategy surrounding an event with then administrator Scott Pruitt, and facilitated a meeting about ongoing EPA enforcement matters affecting an electric utility represented by NRECA. (Sen. Tom Carper)
  • Brian Bulatao was confirmed to serve as the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management. Prior to his nomination, Bulatao was chief operating officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. President Donald Trump nominated him for the position last June. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said Bulatao will play a vital role overseeing the agency’s day-to-day operations. (Senate Foreign Relations Committee)
  • The director of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council is looking for promising workforce reskilling practices and wants examples from agencies. CHCO Council Director Sara Ratcliffe said the Office of Personnel Management is considering wholesale changes and a new approach to agencies’ existing talent development programs. Reskilling and upskilling the federal workforce for new work is one of many priorities in the President’s Management Agenda. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
  • GSA launched a one-stop shop for all things cloud. The Cloud Information Center is a central repository for cloud resources on the Acquisition Gateway portal. Some of the site’s features include info on GSA’s market research as a service tool, best practices, and the ability to review acquisition guidance, download templates and collaborate with fellow decision-makers. Additionally, industry soon will be able to share information on their cloud capabilities with federal customers through the site’s communities of interest forums. (General Services Administration)
  • The General Services Administration’s federal marketplace strategy is reimagining the way the agency and its government and industry customers buy, sell and support billions of dollars in goods and services. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said after the mid-2000s “Get It Right” campaign, it’s time for GSA to take advantage of the innovation in the procurement market. This means, GSA is consolidating schedules, testing out an e-marketplace platform, standardizing and simplifying things like terms and conditions and reducing the number of special item numbers to about 300 from more than 1,100.
  • There were almost 2,000 contractors federal agencies did business with from 2016 to 2017, who had unreported tax debts. The Government Accountability Office said the Army, Navy, and departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs may have violated federal regulations by working with those contractors. (Government Accountability Office)
  • A new bill in the Senate looks to reduce the influence major defense contractors have at the Pentagon. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) legislation would impose a four-year ban on large contractors hiring senior defense officials, as well as former DoD employees who managed their contract. Companies would also need to submit annual reports on what former DoD employees work for them to the Pentagon. (Sen. Elizabeth Warren)
  • The military services are in various states of audit readiness. The thing they have in common is that a clean opinion is still several years away. They’re only in their second year of full-scale financial audits, so each of the services say their schedules are goals, not predictions. But the Army is aiming for a modified opinion on its general fund by 2022. The Navy and Air Force, meanwhile, both say they’re hoping to pass an audit by five-to-seven years from now. The Pentagon’s consolidated audit depends on the results from the services, so a clean opinion for all of DoD will take even longer.
  • Airmen may soon be allowed to move to the reserve or Guard component and then back to active duty as a means to increase retention. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the option will give airmen more flexibility around big life events. The service would need congressional approval to implement the idea. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force is also giving military spouses up to $500 for occupational re-licensures or re-certifications if they have to move because of an airmen’s change of station. Military spouse unemployment has gained traction recently as an issue surrounding retention and quality of life for service members. The service will reimburse spouses who incurred fees on or after Dec. 12, 2017. (Air Force)

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