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There has been more fallout from the recent discovery of a Facebook group consisting of current and former Border Patrol agents making what many have called racist and sexist jokes about immigrants. Chair of the House Homeland Security committee Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) is now requesting the Homeland Security Inspector General began an investigation into current and former U.S. Customs and Border Protection leadership. He wants to find out what leadership knew about the groups, when they knew it, and if they took any action. (House Homeland Security Committee)
Sexual harassment complaints from federal agencies to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are up 40% since the start of the #MeToo movement two years ago. The agency recently told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, harassment complaints are up substantially up in recent years. Harassment complaints make up 35% of filings to the EEOC from the private sector. The EEOC says harassment complaints in general make up half of federal filings. (Federal News Network)
The Environmental Inspection Agency’s inspector general is taking a look at how the agency has used assignments under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act. IPA assignments temporarily sends staff members to other agencies and eligible organizations. E&E News reports senior EPA officials said to have clashed with former EPA head Scott Pruitt were moved elsewhere. (E&E News)
The Pentagon’s inspector general is opening a second investigation into a spare parts conglomerate accused of price gouging. In a February report, the IG found that TransDigm and its subsidiaries used their position as a sole-source supplier to demand profit margins well above the norm. In many cases, parts were marked up by more than a thousand percent. That report was based on a sample of the company’s contracts. The office now says it’s conducting a broader probe into whether TransDigm’s fundamental business model affects DoD’s ability to pay fair prices in the spare parts market. (Department of Defense)
The House of Representatives will take up the 2020 defense authorization bill this week. It will wade through more than 600 amendments attached to the bill my members. The bill authorizes $733 billion dollars for defense next year. The Senate already passed its version of the legislation earlier this month.
Congress and the White House only have until the end of the month to install a new Defense Secretary. If the position does not have a confirmed person by July 30, the White House will be in breach of the Vacancies Act since no one confirmed has held the position for 210 days. Army Secretary Mark Esper is currently the acting defense secretary, but he has yet to be formally nominated.
A Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services executive got a promotion. Paul Mango, the chief of staff, will become the deputy chief of staff for policy at Health and Human Services, CMS’s parent department. Secretary Alex Azar says the new position will help HHS leadership better coordinate their work, support one another, and achieve results. (Department of Health and Human Services)
Just after July 4th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo created a new commission on unalienable rights. Pompeo says Harvard Professor Mary Ann Glendon will chair the commission. And it’ll include experts in human rights, philosophers and activists from both parties. They’ll advise Pompeo on human rights as expressed by the founders and by a 1948 universal declaration. In a press briefing, Pompeo referred to his earlier statement that U.S. foreign policy would be based on the founding, meaning the founders ideas on liberty and a government of laws. (Department of State)
Veterans Affairs says it will start processing benefits for veterans who qualify under a new Blue Water Navy law starting in 2020. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie says that will give the department time to make sure they have the right resources ready. President Trump signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act into law late last month. The new law extends eligibility of certain Agent Orange exposure benefits to veterans who served off Vietnam’s shore between 1962 and 1975. Veterans who fit this description and suffered from certain conditions were denied benefits before. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
Agencies need to share more data with each other under the first-year goals of the Federal Data Strategy. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Kelvin Droegemeier said the strategy asks agencies to build more public-private partnerships around data, and setting standards for data formats, to help agencies share data with each other. OSTP for example, has partnered with the departments and Defense and Veterans Affairs on a pilot project focused on reskilling veterans. (Federal News Network)
Tight budgets at the Internal Revenue Service have put a toll on its IT operations. IRS officials have plans to beef up the agency’s services online, but longstanding budget cuts have put those plans on hold. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, found the IRS’ IT shop denied 82 requests for projects aimed at improving taxpayer services. Agency officials told TIGTA, scrapping those projects could prevent the agency from collecting billions in lost revenue, or taxpayers not getting the right amount credited to their accounts. But the IT shop has begun piloting the use of agile development to roll out online services. (Department of the Treasury)