House rep calls out Trump admin. after USDA buyout cut

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  • Buyouts look lighter now than what the Agriculture Department initially advertised to employees who chose not to relocate to Kansas City next month. USDA said the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture employees who accept a buyout will get $10,000, instead of $25,000, the max amount civilian agencies can pay. USDA said it offered all eligible employees a buyout, and 43 ERS and 48 NIFA employees received the offers. (Federal News Network)
  • News that USDA will be paying out less money to employees who choose not to move to Kansas city next month sparked outrage from one Virginia representative. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) said, “the degree of disrespect and outright hostility the Trump administration has demonstrated towards federal workers is alarming.” In a statement, Wexton said she will “not stand by” while the administration hurts the federal workforce, though did not mentioning any specific action she plans on taking.
  • The National Archives and Records Administration is taking a new approach to retrain the records management workforce. NARA Chief Records Officer Laurence Brewer said NARA will continue to provide training to senior agency officials for records management, but will help agencies develop their own records management training coursework. NARA will phase out its in-person records management training program, and will make its training materials available for free online. (Federal News Network)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general is taking a closer look at how the agency oversees closed hazardous waste sites. The IG office will review the steps EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery takes to prevent public exposure to hazardous substances. It will also be looking for areas where EPA could use more resources. (Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General)
  • A regulatory hold up is blocking federal cyber efforts. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has been sitting on National Institute of Standards and Technology publication 800-53, revision 5 since January. The delay in approving the publication is causing NIST to hold up the release for public comment on six other cybersecurity special publications. Ron Ross, a fellow at NIST, said OIRA is reviewing the publication because of the new privacy controls that standards body added. He said once OIRA signs off on 800-53, revision 5, NIST will release a revision to FIPS 199 and 200 as well as the revision to supply chain risk management guideline.
  • For the first time in years the Air Force gained more pilots than it lost. Air Combat Command leader Gen. James Holmes said he’s pleased with the progress, but the service has a long way to go to fill the 2,000-pilot gap it still faces. In the next year the Air Force plans to unveil community-based incentives for pilots. The incentives will be based on pilots who work with specific aircraft to address their personal needs. (Federal News Network)
  • The Coast Guard Academy recently saw its sexual harassment numbers rise, now the school is under fire for another issue with its cadets. Two House committees want to hear from the Coast Guard about issues of racially motivated harassment and retaliation at the Coast Guard Academy. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) sent a letter to Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz asking for interviews with the Coast Guard Academy Dean and the commander of the Coast Guard’s 13th District. The chairmen want to gain insight into the handling of harassment and retaliation. The letter states that the chairmen are deeply troubled by what appears to be an effort by the Coast Guard to impede the investigation. (House Oversight and Reform Committee)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs said it’s on track to implement a new appointment scheduling platform through its electronic health record modernization contract with Cerner by 2023. VA’s inspector general documented the long, chaotic history of the department’s efforts to implement a new scheduling system. Efforts to modernize the VA scheduling system started back in 2000. The IG said VA’s attempts to modernize its in-house veterans scheduling enhancement project weren’t properly managed from the beginning. VA said it will deploy the new Cerner scheduling system at the first site some time in 2020. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • A top federal financial regulatory lawyer switches sides in moving to the private sector. Robert Cohen departs the Securities and Exchange Commission, where for 15 years he served in the enforcement division. Most recently, Cohen headed the SEC’s Cyber Unit, which rooted out fraud, insider trading, and crypto-currency abuses. Now Cohen will join the law firm Davis Polk as a partner in its Washington, D.C. litigation department. The firm said he’ll be a member of its white collar criminal defense and investigations group. (Davis Polk)
  • The Justice Department obtained a $20 million settlement from a contractor who allegedly violated the False Claims Act for obtaining federal set-aside contracts for small businesses that the company was not eligible for. DOJ said ADS Inc. has agreed to pay the fine to resolve a Qui Tam whistleblower lawsuit. Justice said Luke Hillier, the majority owner and former CEO of Virginia-based defense contractor ADS, Inc., agreed to pay the fine to resolve a Qui Tam whistleblower lawsuit. This is the third time ADS settled allegations that it violated the small business contract regulations, paying a total of $36 million. (Department of Justice)

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