HUD Secretary Carson cleared of misconduct in purchasing probe

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  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s independent watchdog has cleared Secretary Ben Carson of any misconduct in connection with the order of a $31,000 dining room set for his office suite. HUD’s Office of Inspector General launched a probe last year into allegations that Carson violated federal law by authorizing a purchase of more than $5,000, without first notifying congressional appropriations committees. Carson canceled the order in May 2018 after media reports raised questions about the legality of the procurement. Investigators concluded that the furniture order went forward because career officials determined the existing dining set could not be repaired and should instead be replaced. (HUD OIG)
  • The Census Bureau has stood up a center to monitor social media for misinformation during the 2020 headcount. Census Chief Operating Officer Enrique Lamas said the center will allow the bureau to clarify online rumors about 2020 operations. Earlier this month the bureau launched an email dropbox, where members of the public can report inaccurate social media posts about the census. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army said it has been cracking down on property management companies that aren’t providing safe living conditions in on-base housing. Ryan McCarthy, the acting secretary of the Army, said the service will withhold incentive fees from companies who don’t handle work orders and customer service requests in a timely fashion. If that doesn’t work, he said the Army will exercise clauses in its contracts that lets it replace under-performing management companies. McCarthy testified yesterday at his confirmation hearing to become the permanent Army secretary. (Senate Armed Services Committee)
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee has asked the Navy  for a report on the its unmet requirements for working in a cold water environment. The military is focusing more on the Arctic as the ice caps are melting and new waterways are rising. The appropriations committee said it hopes the Navy report will help inform Congress on where the service needs to research, develop and prototype systems for the Arctic. (Senate Appropriations)
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee also said it wants the Defense Department to work with more small businesses to advance artificial intelligence. The 2020 defense appropriations bill directs the Defense Innovation Unit, or DIU, to identify commercial AI to support disaster response. DIU is the Pentagon’s innovation outreach agency, which connects with nontraditional defense companies. The committee also wants small businesses to work on more projects in DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. (Senate Appropriations)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs said it’s processed more benefits claims in one year than ever before. The Veterans Benefits Administration finished nearly 9,000 more disability decisions this year than during the previous one. The Board of Veterans Appeals said it also hit a new record. It provided more than 21,000 hearings in fiscal 2019, or 5,000 more than last year. VA said hiring more judges and attorneys, and implementing new training was key to its success this year. (VA)
  • The Office of Management and Budget has rescinded four policies and issued a new one that gives agencies more flexibility in how they secure cloud services. The final Trusted Internet Connections or TIC 3 policy details four uses cases for how agencies can implement alternative security controls to protect their networks and systems. OMB also set a series of deadlines over the next 60 days to test the use cases and update government-wide procurement vehicles to reflect the new policy. (Federal News Network)
  • The General Services Administration has taken a major step toward modernizing federal payroll providers. GSA awarded task orders to the two teams of providers under the New Pay program to configure their respective software solutions. The effort includes implementing 65 pay plan codes, developing and testing required interfaces and obtaining the necessary security authorizations. (GSA)
  • A bipartisan group of senators have a few questions about the Department of Veterans Affairs’ massive contracting enterprise. Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.),  Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) wrote to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro saying they’re concerned VA’s contracting functions aren’t sound, and that the department doesn’t have the right metrics to measure contractor performance, and that big acquisitions aren’t living up to their expectations. The senators want the Government Accountability Office to choose several high-dollar value contractors and evaluate them. (Lankford)