Veterans Affairs told it should stop posting disciplinary actions on its website

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  • An arbitrator finds the Department of Veterans Affairs should take down a public record of employee firings and other punishments from its website. The American Federation of Government Employees filed a grievance over VA’s publication of disciplinary data on its website. VA began tracking removals, suspensions and other punishments and started to post them online back in 2017. An arbitrator said VA violated the Privacy Act in posting this information on a public-facing website, and should take the information down. (American Federation of Government Employees)
  • More federal employees say they’ve witnessed or experienced harassment, discrimination, nepotism or retaliation for whistleblowing at their agencies in recent years. The Merit Systems Protection Board said 46% of the federal workforce experienced or observed a prohibited personnel practice in 2016. That’s up from 34% of employees who said they experienced harassment or discrimination back in 2010. The MSPB said the reasons for the increase are unclear. Agencies made a bigger effort to teach employees about these instances in recent years. Greater awareness of prohibited personnel practices could prompt more employees to report. (Merit Systems Protection Board)
  • VA violated its own policy for veteran home loans. The Veterans Benefits Administration collected nearly $300 million in home loan origination fees, from veterans who were supposed to be exempt from the fees. VA policy waives the fees for service-disabled veterans. But the VA inspector general found that over a five year period, VBA collected the fee anyhow from about 73,000 exempt applicants. The IG urges VBA to refund the money and improve controls over future home loans. (Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General)
  • The number of federal employees waiting for OPM to process their retirement claims is at a 17-month low. But the average time it takes to process those claims is inching back up. In May, OPM took on average, 62 days to process a claim, up from 56 days in April. OPM currently has over 17,000 claims in the backlog, down 574 from the month before. (Federal News Network)
  • Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduce a bill to measure automaton’s effect on the workforce. The bipartisan bill would have the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine track the number of jobs displaced and created because of increased automation. The bill would also create a workforce development advisory board that would advise the Labor Department on ways to reskill the workforce. (Sen. Gary Peters)
  • Lt. Gen. David Berger is approved as the 38th commandant of the Marine Corps by the Senate. Berger currently serves as the head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. Berger’s confirmation was placed on hold by a senator last month, but was recently lifted. Berger will replace current commandant Gen. Joseph Neller, who is retiring. (U.S. Marine Corps)
  • The head of the Air Force Warfare Center is relieved of his position due to an alleged unprofessional relationship. Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten has been in charge of the warfare center since July 2017. An investigation into Gersten is underway, but no further details have been released. Brig. Gen. David Snoddy will take over the warfare center until Maj. Gen. Charles Corcoran takes command in July. (Associated Press)
  • After the company TransDigm was forced to return $16 million in overcharges to the Pentagon, the House Oversight and Reform Committee wants the Defense Department inspector general to review all of the company’s contracts with DoD. The contracts total about $782 million over four years. The original overcharges were uncovered by a smaller review done by the DoD IG. (House Oversight and Reform Committee)
  • The Pentagon’s inspector general found serious flaws in DoD’s signature cyber defense system. The specific security holes the IG found were redacted from a report the office issued Thursday, but auditors said the Joint Regional Security Stacks contain numerous vulnerabilities that DoD hasn’t addressed. The IG also said many of the personnel assigned to operate JRSS still haven’t received adequate training to operate and manage the system. DoD officials said the findings are based on outdated observations, and they still don’t plan to delay the worldwide JRSS rollout. (Federal News Network)
  • The White House wants a major change to a recent supply chain risk management effort aimed at Chinese companies. The Office of Management and Budget is asking Congress to give agencies two extra years, for a total of four years, to stop contracting with vendors who use ZTE or Huawei technologies as a substantial component of any system or as critical technology as part of any system. In a legislative proposal sent to Congress on June 4, the administration asked for this and other changes to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. OMB also asked Congress to expand the legislative mandate not to use these Chinese made products to any recipient of federal loans or grants. OMB wants these changes as part of the 2020 NDAA. (White House)
  • Journalists no longer account for the majority of open records requests at federal agencies. According to new research out of the University of Denver, first-person requests, or people seeking government records about themselves or their own families, are the most common types of FOIA requests. The National Archives and Records Administration’s FOIA Advisory Committee is seeking ways to make the federal FOIA process faster and cut down the backlog of requests. (Federal News Network)
  • Prior to his exit, the Office of Special Counsel said former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated the Hatch Act, with his socks. The Washington Post said OSC substantiated a claim from a watchdog group, which alleged Zinke violated the federal law when he tweeted a picture of himself wearing socks that said “Make America Great Again” in June 2018. (Washington Post)
  • House Democrats are worried the effect President Donald Trump’s July Fourth plans will have on the Interior Department. House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) was among the authors of a letter to the White House, urging the president not to host his own event on the National Mall during the traditional holiday celebration in Washington, D.C. The lawmakers worry adding another event on the Mall attended by the president would add substantial unplanned costs to the agency without Congressional Review. (House Majority Leader)
  • Federal News Network got a look at how the Census Bureau plans to keep responses in the 2020 count confidential. The Bureau released the source code for an algorithm it’s using for the task — it’s the same one it used for its 2018 end-to-end field test in Providence County, Rhode Island. The algorithm stems from a concept called differential privacy, that prevents users from tracing statistical data back to individual respondents. (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • The Data Coalition will partner with the Census Bureau to promote an accurate 2020 population count. The coalition will serve as one of 300,000 organizations recruited by the Bureau to fill out the census questionnaire online, over the phone, or through the mail. Data Coalition CEO Nick Hart said the data from the decennial count is invaluable for both the federal government and private sector businesses. (Data Coalition)

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