GAO: Changes in leadership at the State Dept. have hampered reorganization efforts

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  • State Department leadership changes have stalled some of the agency’s reorganization efforts. The Government Accountability Office found the consolidation of State’s real property management slowed after President Trump fired former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Other efforts slowed because of delays in confirming an undersecretary for management. The agency has told GAO it’ll review its list of reorganization efforts and will let the Office of Management and Budget know which projects it’ll try and move forward on. (Government Accountability Office)
  • President Trump’s choice to become the next director of national intelligence withdrew his nomination. In a tweet Friday, Trump says Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) is opting to remain in Congress to avoid “months of slander and libel.” Ratcliffe was facing considerable pushback about his lack of experience and qualifications to lead the intelligence community. Ratcliffe says he did not want his confirmation to become a partisan issue. The IC will not have a Senate confirmed leader once outgoing director Dan Coats leaves on August 15. (Associated Press)
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on several executive branch nominees before leaving for August recess. The move sets up confirmation votes on the Senate’s first day back in September. This means the Senate could move quickly to confirm Dale Cabaniss to be the director of the Office of Personnel Management, and Jim Byrne to be deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The president’s nominees to fill and restore a quorum at the Merit Systems Protection Board are still waiting for confirmation votes. (Senate Calendar)
  • The IRS is preparing to launch its Pilot IRS effort to explore in greater detail technologies ranging from robotics process automation to optical character recognition to intelligent automation tools. The tax agency released a draft request for proposals detailing its initial thinking for the program. In the document, the IRS says it’s planning multiple solution challenges focused different needs. The broader goal of Pilot IRS is to test out innovative acquisition approaches that streamline deployment. Responses to the draft RFQ are due August 9. (FedBizOpps)
  • Federal employee unions urged the U.S. Court of Appeals to deny the government’s recent request to implement the President’s workforce executive orders immediately. U.S. attorneys filed a motion to lift the injunction on the President’s EOs late last month. The request came after a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of the government, and said a lower court lacked jurisdiction when it initially invalidated much of the President’s executive orders last August. (Federal News Network)
  • A group of Democratic Senators say they’re deeply concerned by current collective bargaining negotiations at the Veterans Affairs Department. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and 33 others wrote to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, saying VA has taken multiple steps to ensure negotiations with the American Federation of Government Employees are not successful. The Senators are asking for VA to explain why each bargaining proposal is necessary. They also want to know why the department declared an impasse after a short period of time. (Sen. Sherrod Brown)
  • Members of Congress will soon have an easier time helping constituents get services from federal agencies. The Senate has passed the Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents, or CASES Act, it will allow people to digitally sign off on having congressional offices intervene with agencies on their behalf. Under current law, Members of Congress must obtain written authorization from a constituent before taking action to resolve their case. The bill now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk for approval. (Sen. Rob Portman)
  • A bipartisan pair of Senators want to restore administrative law judges to the competitive hiring process. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced the ALJ Competitive Service Restoration Act. The bill would reverse an executive order President Donald Trump signed last year that allowed agency heads to directly appoint administrative law judges. The legislation would require agency heads to instead choose judges from a list of qualified candidates provided by the Office of Personnel Management. (Sen. Susan Collins)
  • Agencies receiving 50 or fewer Freedom of Information Act requests a year will have a reduced reporting burden in fiscal 2020. The Justice Department issued its annual chief FOIA officer reporting guidelines. For next year, it’s only requiring a short narrative for how low-volume FOIA agencies improved their processes over the previous year. Agencies receiving more than 50 FOIA requests will continue to have to provide more in-depth details on their current efforts and any challenges they face. (Department of Justice)
  • The Navy says its security forces have shot and killed a sailor after a high speed chase on a base in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region this weekend. Officials describe the service member only as a junior enlisted sailor. They say he fled from a traffic stop on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, then led security officials on a chase that approached 60 miles per hour. Two Navy police officers were also hurt in the incident, when, according to the Navy Times, the sailor attacked them after crashing his car into the base’s gas station and then fleeing on foot.

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