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Mark Esper is poised to become the next Defense secretary. If he’s confirmed, one of his first jobs will be to help fill the rest of the vacant politically-appointed positions in the Pentagon. At his confirmation hearing yesterday, Esper said he’d just come from a meeting with White House officials about how to close the leadership gaps and promised to make it a top priority. The president has recently announced his intent to fill the positions of deputy secretary, chief management officer, Army secretary and Air Force secretary. But several others have been vacant for months or years with no nominees on the horizon; DoD inspector general, the top two personnel and readiness officials, and the assistant secretary for Health Affairs.
The White House won its appeal of a 2018 district court decision which overturned much of the president’s three, controversial workforce executive orders. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the district court lacked jurisdiction when it invalidated nine key provisions of the collective bargaining and official time orders. The appeals court said federal employee unions should have taken their case to the Federal Labor Relations Authority. The unions have vowed to continue their legal fight. (Federal News Network)
With the Bureau of Land Management moving headquarters, the Interior Department said it will move some employees to Grand Junction, Colorado. But more BLM employees will relocate to other states across the country. Interior identified 220 positions which will relocate to states where much of their program work is already done. This means BLM employees will relocate to places like Oregon and Idaho to be closer to work in the field. Some 27 BLM employees are expected to move to Grand Junction, while 61 will remain in the Washington, D.C. area. (Federal News Network)
The Agriculture Department and the two bargaining units representing employees at the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture are expected to start negotiations this week over the agency’s planned relocation to Kansas City. ERS and NIFA employees were supposed to inform USDA of their decision to relocate earlier this week. Employees who choose to move will receive relocation instructions in the coming weeks. Employees who decline relocation are receiving removal letters. Their last day will be Sept. 27. (Federal News Network)
The Trump administration is using a recent IT outage at the Office of Personnel Management as proof that OPM needs to merge with the General Services Administration. OPM said significant functions went down last week due to an IT problem that lasted for multiple hours. Acting Director Margaret Weichert is expected to brief senators Wednesday on this IT incident and on the status of the GSA merger. A government source with knowledge of OPM tells Federal News Network, construction caused last week’s IT incident, and systems were down for less than an hour. (Federal News Network)
GSA awarded eight airlines contracts under its City Pair Program. The program sets airfare rates for the federal government’s official travel at pre-negotiated and firm-fixed-prices, offering a 51% discount on airfares. GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Alan Thomas said it will save the government approximately $2.71 billion. (General Services Administration)
As the fourth quarter federal buying season kicks into gear, a new rule makes it easier for agencies to spend their money with GSA. A new Federal Acquisition Regulation rule removes the requirement for agencies to justify the best procurement approach if they are using GSA schedules or governmentwide acquisition contracts. The final rule, which the FAR Council published and became effective June 5, also lets agencies use GSA’s assisted acquisition services without the need to validate their approach. GSA said the rule change lessens the burden on its customers because they can now identify and quickly use GSA IT Category contracts especially as they begin the end-of-year IT spending rush. (General Services Administration)
A bipartisan group of senators want to keep Chinese-owned tech company Huawei from doing business with American companies unless otherwise decided by an act of Congress. Huawei is already barred from doing so by an executive order. A new bill would further codify the blacklisting of the company for future administrations. Huawei is accused of selling tools to businesses that have hidden spy features. (Sen. Marco Rubio)
The Justice Department is claiming some successes for an operation to pinch the illegal opioid supply. Dubbed Synthetic Opioid Surge, or SOS the program has produced scores of investigations, indictments, and seizures. Ten Justice districts have participated. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said prosecutors worked with Drug Enforcement Agency special operations and the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces. In the Northern District of Ohio, Justice got 71 indictments and said overdose deaths fell by 12%. (Department of Justice)
Despite an uncertain financial future for the Postal Service, two nominees for USPS oversight positions have urged Congress to avoid giving the agency a bailout in the years ahead. President Donald Trump’s picks to serve on the Postal Regulatory Commission, Ann Fisher and Ashley Poling, said the Postal Service should remain self-sustaining, despite 12 straight years of net losses. Poling, a current Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee staffer, said she would press the Postal Service on providing more accurate data on delivery standards. (Federal News Network)
In the home stretch of preparing for the 2020 population count, the Census Bureau has fallen behind on deadlines to test new IT systems. The Government Accountability Office has found the bureau is at risk of not meeting performance and scalability tests for 11 of the systems it will use in the decennial count. GAO has issued more than 100 recommendations about the 2020 count. More than 30 of those recommendations remain open. (Government Accountability Office)
A bill to make the Small Business Administration report annually about the state of its IT and cybersecurity infrastructure passes the House. The SBA Cyber Awareness Act was one of five bills passed yesterday in the lower chamber. Another bill would require SBA to change its revenue-based size standard from a 3-year average, to a 5-year average. The Senate folded both the cyber and size standard bills into its version of the 2020 defense authorization bill. (House Small Business Administration)