CBO confirms no sequestration cuts this year

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  • Agencies have one less thing to worry about for the final six weeks of fiscal 2019: budget cuts due to sequestration are not on the table. The Congressional Budget Office confirmed OMB’s initial decision in March that sequestration cuts would not be needed this year. In its report to Congress, CBO said because Congress increased the budget caps for defense and non-defense funding, spending remained below the levels that would’ve caused sequestration cuts. Despite the fact that OMB and CBO both said sequestration cuts wouldn’t happen this year, the White House told Congress earlier this month that DoD personnel would be exempted from reductions if necessary. (Congressional Budget Office)
  • The Office of Personnel Management will continue to accept and process Senior Executive Service Qualification Review Board cases when an agency head leaves, announces a departure or the President nominates a new agency leader. Previous policy barred OPM from reviewing applications if the organization didn’t have a permanent leader. Executive candidates must submit QRBs to OPM for review to become a member of the Senior Executive Service. Moratoriums will still be in place during changes in administration. OPM says the modified moratorium will allow agencies to respond more quickly and efficiently to address staffing and leadership needs. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
  • Employees at Google have a problem with more than just the Defense Department. More than 700 employees at the tech giant have signed a petition vowing not provide any services to Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Office of Refugee Resettlement. They cited federal actions to separate parents from children and poor conditions at detention centers as their main reasons. (Associated Press)
  • Politics infected the management of career State Department employees. State’s inspector general confirmed numerous instances of appointees mistreating career employees in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, in some cases calling them disloyal for having worked under the Obama administration. A career senior foreign service officer was removed improperly, and a merit competition for a career position canceled. The IG says assistant secretary Kevin Moley heard complaints but did little about them. He and former senior advisor Mari Stull often berated career employees and yelled at them. (Department of State Office of Inspector General)
  • Old Air Force planes may get new life. The Air Force Research Laboratory completed the first successful flight of its converted robotic aircraft program at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. The program changes manned aircraft into drones and then can turn them back into manned aircraft again. The initiative uses non-invasive robotics to control the aircraft. The original test flight lasted two hours. (Air Force)
  • Damage tallies are starting to roll in from the Navy’s China Lake weapons station after a string of earthquakes in southern California last month, and repair costs are running into the billions. Navy officials cautioned they can’t forecast what they’ll actually spend until Congress approves funding, but the preliminary estimate is $5.2 billion. The quakes registered up to a magnitude 7.2, and caused serious cracks and other damage to buildings. They also damaged water pipes and electrical equipment. About 20% of the buildings at China Lake have been declared unsafe or had their use restricted. Many of them are older, and didn’t meet modern earthquake standards. (Federal News Network)
  • Alyssa Farah will be the new Pentagon press secretary and deputy assistant to the defense secretary for media. Farah spent almost two years working as press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence. She also served as Pence’s communications director and as a senior adviser. Farah comes to the Pentagon at a time when it has drawn criticism over how rarely DoD conducts press briefings. (Twitter)
  • The Defense Department made close to a billion dollars in improper travel payments to servicemembers and civilian employees from 2016 to 2018. Though not all the payments necessarily mean a monetary loss for the Pentagon, the Government Accountability Office recommends it find a way to address them using data on the payments. (Government Accountability Office)
  • The Army is taking a lot of risk activating some of its new cyber and electronic warfare units without fully staffing or equipping them. A Government Accountability Office study says in the Army’s rush to activate the units, it did not properly gauge what challenges may arise from the lack of troops and training. One activated cyber battalion studied by the GAO was understaffed by more than 80%. The Army says the threats justify the actions. (Government Accountability Office)
  • The Department of Homeland Security is changing its approach to cybersecurity. DHS has outlined a new path forward for how it plans to evolve its security operations center. DHS is now looking for cybersecurity support services from contractors instead of buying a managed service. The agency released a request for information detailing the change in thinking. This latest RFI comes after DHS released a similar request in 2018 for managed services. DHS now wants vendors to comment on its new strategy of creating a multiple award contract under its EAGLE next generation vehicle for a host of cyber support services, including network monitoring and security event analysis, email security monitoring and analysis, cyber intelligence support and much more. Comments on the RFI are due August 29. (FedBizOpps)
  • Over 40% of IT systems at the Department of Homeland Security are in or making their way to the cloud. DHS says it’s relying on its component agencies to help guide headquarters in its own cloud journey. The department is continuing to prepare acquisition strategies to re-compete the contracts for its two main data centers. Existing contracts are up next year. DHS says a statement of objectives for its ongoing data center consolidation should hit the street in late fall or early winter. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Health and Human Services is under scrutiny for its response to the international Ebola outbreak. While the agency made significant efforts to control the spread of the disease in 2014 and 2015, HHS’ inspector general says the agency was not prepared to deploy the resources needed for a large-scale international response. The IG recommends crafting more clear and concise objectives and response plans, as well as working with other agencies to develop a more flexible response framework. (Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General)

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