HHS gets recommendations on how to better spend its money

In today's Federal Newscast, Health and Human Services releases 25 ways the agency can improve how it spends taxpayer money.

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  • Health and Human Services now has 25 ways to improve how it spends taxpayer money. The agency’s inspector general released a list of recommendations that, if implemented, would help with cost savings, program effectiveness and efficiency, and public health and safety. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services account for 18 of the 25 recommendations. The IG also says headquarters is falling short in ensuring the Improper Payments Information Act is fully employed to address systemic shortcomings. (Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General)
  • The White House and Congress came to an agreement on a budget deal ensuring no government shutdown for the next two years. The deal builds upon recent large budget gains for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies, allowing for $1.37 trillion in federal spending for 2020, and slightly more for 2021. (Federal News Network)
  • The Government Accountability Office is taking a closer look at agency efforts to keep the lights on during the 35-day partial government shutdown. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said it’s working on more than a dozen opinions focused on whether agencies went beyond limited exceptions in the Antideficiency Act. The law prevents agencies from spending funds not appropriated by Congress. (Federal News Network)
  • Despite growing critical skills gaps highlighted by the Government Accountability Office, federal agencies are only using a fraction of their special hiring authorities. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said agencies have more than 100 special hiring authorities, but only use 10 to 20. This comes after Congress reauthorized the IRS’s streamlined critical pay and hiring authority, by recently passing the Taxpayer Reform Act. That allows the IRS to hire up to 40 short-term IT hires to work for a maximum of four years. (Federal News Network)
  • HHS is ending its assisted acquisition services and its customers are none too happy about it. More than a billion dollars in contracts are at risk because the Department of Health and Human Services’ Program Support Center says it no longer has the necessary processes to provide assisted acquisition services. PSC will immediately stop all in-process procurements and customer agencies must move all existing contracts in-house or to other agency service providers by September 30, 2020. HHS’s decision impacts a host of agencies including DoD, which has more than 500 current procurements with PSC, as well as OPM and EPA just as the federal fourth quarter buying season is starting to take off. (Federal News Network)
  • The new commandant of the Marine Corps is looking to make some changes within the service. General David Berger’s first planning guidance says he’ll be prioritizing force modernization over the size of the Corps. Berger also floated the idea of giving new mothers up to a year off in maternity leave. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force is imposing financial penalties on one of its private housing providers amid allegations of widespread fraud. The Air Force told the Reuters news agency that both its own investigators and the FBI are looking into fraud at three bases where Balfour Beatty manages on-base housing: Tinker AFB in Oklahoma, Fairchild AFB in Washington and Travis AFB in California. In the meantime, the service is cutting off the management incentive fees allowed for in the company’s contracts at all 21 of the bases where it has a presence. The firm is accused of faking maintenance records to show it had repaired housing problems more quickly than it actually did. (Reuters)
  • Just two months after the Senate confirmed a new undersecretary of State for management, President Trump appointed Carrie Beth Cabelka to be the assistant secretary of State for administration. In that role, Cabelka will help oversee a variety of functions ranging from budget and personnel matters to foreign buildings and record keeping. Cabelka currently serves as the White House Liaison to State. She previously served as White House Liaison and senior advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2007 to 2009. (White House)
  • Thrift Savings Plan participants are two months away now from getting more flexible withdrawal options. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board says it’s nearly finished with the IT upgrades needed to prepare for them. Participants who need to withdraw money must make their requests using the existing forms by September 6. New options kick in September 15. Participants should have gotten an email or notification in the mail with information about the upcoming changes.
  • The Agriculture Department brushed off congressional concerns that an upcoming relocation to Kansas City would lead to a problematic brain drain at the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. House and Senate Democrats are worried USDA is rushing to either move or remove ERS and NIFA employees. USDA and the American Federation of Government Employees will continue bargaining negotiations this week over whether to allow impacted employees to telework to give them more time to move to Kansas City. (Federal News Network)
  • Federal managers complained to Congress about the operations of a small but influential Veterans Affairs Department office. The Senior Executives Association says VA’s office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection has failed VA’s most dedicated civil servants. SEA calls on Congress to remedy the problem, by restoring merit systems protections to senior executives. The organization cites the bungled case of one of its members and a VA executive. Investigators of a whistleblower charge had stricken evidence from a file that, when discovered, reversed the executive’s disciplinary action.
  • 551 employees at the Homeland Security Department have volunteered and been reassigned along the U.S. southern border. DHS stood up a new Volunteer Force earlier this spring. It looks for volunteers to head south and supplement the work of Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Over 2,100 DHS employees have applied for volunteer opportunities. Non-DHS employees can apply too. So far just one is waiting to deploy to the DHS Volunteer Force as an attorney. (Federal News Network)

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