Congressman, Veterans Affairs butt heads over office space

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  • Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) and the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to feud over the location of his VA office. Mast is asking VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to overturn a recent eviction notice given to him and other members of Congress who have offices inside department facilities. VA told Mast it needed the space for clinical activities. But Mast said his office takes up just 100 square feet of closet space. He said he and other lawmakers have opened up their offices as a way to directly help their constituents with VA related challenges. (Rep. Brian Mast)
  • More shutdown relief for federal employees passed in the House. The Shutdown Guidance for Financial Institutions Act would require agencies to issue guidance to banks and financial institutions shortly after a shutdown starts. The guidance is supposed to encourage lenders to work with borrowers who might miss a payment because of a shutdown. Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) introduced this bill. Wexton said the bill was inspired by a furloughed constituent who nearly missed out on a mortgage because her bank considered her unemployed during the last shutdown. (Rep. Jennifer Wexton)
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he will hold Barbara Barrett’s nomination to be Air Force secretary if she does not pledge to prohibit Air Force spending at properties owned by President Donald Trump. Blumenthal’s announcement comes after reports of the Air Force stopping over and using tax dollars at one of Trump’s luxury hotels. Blumenthal said he was disappointed by some of Barrett’s responses during her confirmation hearing last week, which lead to his uncertainty about her ability to lead the Air Force. (Sen. Richard Blumenthal)
  • The Marine Corps is charging 13 service members for their roles in an alleged human smuggling operation at the southwest border. Nine lance corporals at Camp Pendleton face specific charges related to human smuggling under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Four others who were arrested earlier this summer are charged with failure to obey orders, drunkenness, endangerment, larceny and perjury. The case began when a Border Patrol officer caught two Marines allegedly transporting illegal immigrants in early July. Shortly thereafter, commanders at Pendleton conducted a mass arrest of 16 Marines during battalion formation. (Associated Press)
  • VA named Kshemendra Paul as its new chief data officer. Paul comes to VA from the Department of Homeland Security where he spent almost three years as its cloud action officer and deputy director of mission and strategy in the Office of the Chief Information Officer. Agencies had until July 13 to name a new chief data officer as required under the Evidence Based Policy-Making Act. VA had named an interim CDO before choosing Paul. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general’s office has turned to data analytics tools to better pinpoint fraud. Chief Data Officer and Assistant IG Caryl Brzymialkiewicz said the agency has launched a tool that combs through health care spending by geographic area, then flags areas where billing is double or triple the national average. Data analytics also helped lead the IG office to its biggest opioid takedown this spring. (Federal News Network)
  • The IRS has plans to reduce its payouts to fraudsters by 2% this year, and then by 1% each year after that until 2024. In its annual customer experience action plan, the agency also expects to roll out new identity theft filters in 2020, to help flag bogus tax returns. The number of reported ID theft cases dropped 71% between 2015 and 2018, but IRS officials said fraud attempts have gotten more sophisticated over time. (Federal News Network)
  • CBP is turning to a new approach to contracting to protect the border. The Customs and Border Protection directorate is taking advantage of DHS’ new flexible acquisition authorities to buy capabilities that will provide increased situational awareness at and between Ports of Entry. CBP plans to issue a solicitation under the Commercial Solutions Opening Pilot Program. Among the capabilities CBP is looking to include are access to commercially available data streams, space-based capabilities such as high resolution imagery and small unmanned aircraft systems as-a-service. The agency said it expects to release the request for proposals in early fiscal 2020 and make awards in the second quarter. (FedBizOpps)
  • Flying cars may be a way for the Air Force to expand its industrial base. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said the service is working with industry on flying car technology to replace the V-22 Osprey. But the collaboration has a larger purpose. Testing flying cars with the military would be less prohibitive than in the civilian world, a factor Roper hopes will attract more companies to work with the Pentagon. Roper wants acquisition professionals to think of other areas where the military can benefit private industry and coerce it to work with the Pentagon. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking for a small business whose employees have security clearance. DARPA plans to make a set-aside award in February, for a small business to operate its information technology services. Work will cover several networks ranging from unclassified to top secret. The scope includes support of DARPA’s cloud-first computing strategy. DARPA specifically asks small, 8(a), HUBZone, service-disabled veteran, and women-owned small businesses to submit proposals. The deal will include a one-year contract with four one-year options. (FedBizOpps)

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