Esper’s nomination for Defense Secretary advances to full Senate

Also in today's Federal Newscast, USDA is facing more congressional backlash for its plans to relocate two research bureaus to Kansas City, and the DoD Inspecto...

  • After hearing from Army Secretary Mark Esper last week in his bid to be the next defense secretary, the Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to approve him for the position. Esper’s nomination is scheduled for consideration by the full Senate next Tuesday. In the meantime, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer is serving as the acting defense secretary while Esper’s nomination is under consideration.
  • The Agriculture Department faced more congressional backlash for its plans to relocate two research bureaus to Kansas City. Members of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee say they’re concerned fewer than half of the employees at the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture selected for relocation have agreed to move. Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said USDA is throwing away talent because of the relocation. She said only four employees will be ready to start in Kansas City next week. The department told senators it expected and is planning for high attrition rates due to relocation. (Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee hearing)
  • A report from the Defense Department Inspector General finds former Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White misused her subordinates’ time to run errands during and after work hours. White served as DoD’s top public affairs official under former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The IG found subordinates handled tasks like dropping off and picking up dry cleaning, driving her to and from work, and arranging her personal travel. (DoD Inspector General)
  • Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned a lower court’s ruling that largely invalidated the president’s three executive orders on collective bargaining issues. But the court hasn’t yet lifted the injunction on the three EOs. The appeals judges told the court’s clerk to leave the injunction in place for a week to allow for further appeals. Federal employee unions have vowed to pursue all their legal options after the appeals court’s decision. (Federal News Network)
  • The DHS inspector general is warning about a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of electronic equipment intended for DHS and other agencies, including the departments of Commerce, Justice, Defense and Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The IG said fraudsters find government solicitations for computer equipment and fax or email fraudulent RFQs and purchase orders that include delivery addresses that tend to be abandoned commercial properties. (DHS Inspector General)
  • A new interagency council is taking on mobile computing in a different way. The CIO Council created a new community of practice called the Federal Mobility Group that brings together the membership and goals of the existing Mobile Services Category Team with those of the Mobile Technology Tiger Team. The council said the new group will be able to better respond to the evolving definition and emerging technologies that comprise mobile computing. The FMG also now provides a single point of connection for the federal mobile community to help share information and identify areas of need for policy, guidance and best practices, acquisition of mobile devices and services, and operational requirements. (Federal CIO Council)
  • Defense contractor ITT Cannon is paying the government $11 million to settle a false claims act lawsuit. The Justice Department announced that ITT Cannon allegedly supplied electrical connectors to the military that had not been properly tested. DOJ claims ITT Cannon failed to conduct periodic testing on six models of electrical connectors between 2008 and 2017. The Qui Tam lawsuit was brought by a former regional quality manager at ITT’s Santa Ana facility. The plaintiff will receive more than 2 million dollars under the whistleblower settlement terms.  (Department of Justice)
  • Open government financial data now includes how much the federal government spends on higher education. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service has launched new data visualization tools on to drill down on the $145 billion the federal government spent last year on colleges and universities. Users on the site can take a closer look at how much money went toward research, student aid, and grants. (Bureau of the Fiscal Service)
  • More than half of agencies surveyed by the Government Accountability Office said shared service providers have made it a challenge to report timely, accurate, and complete data under the DATA Act. Twelve of the 16 agencies that reported problems said they’re taking steps to improve performance. Those include better communication with providers, technology improvements, and manual work-arounds to correct the data. (Government Accountability Office)

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