Senate confirms Eugene Scalia to lead Labor Department

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  • The Senate has confirmed Eugene Scalia as the Trump administration’s next secretary of Labor. Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, had previously worked as the agency’s top lawyer during the George W. Bush administration. In private practice, Scalia has a long record of defending major corporations against financial and labor regulations. He’ll take over the role from Pat Pizella, who has served as acting Labor secretary. President Donald Trump’s last permanent pick for the job, Alexander Acosta, resigned in July. (Congress)
  • The Senate has also confirmed the nomination of Air Force Gen. John Hyten to become the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He will serve with incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. Hyten’s nomination had come under scrutiny after a former aide said Hyten had subjected her to unwanted sexual advances. The vote was 75-22 in favor, with 10 of the 22 “no” votes against Hyten’s nomination came from female senators, including Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). (Federal News Network)
  • A new report from the Defense Department has found 541 service members committed suicide in 2018. Since 2013, the suicide rate for active duty service members increased from 18.5 to 24.8 suicides per 100,000 troops. The National Guard and Reserve suicide rates stayed steady over the same period. Military suicide rates are roughly equal to rates in the U.S. population. Nevertheless, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy called the report disheartening and disappointing. (DoD)
  • Air Force Explore has been unveiled as the service’s new way of calling on industry and academia for capability ideas to advance its science and technology strategy. The program is a collaboration between the Air Force Acquisition Executive, the Air Force Warfighter Integration Capability and the service’s Research Laboratory. Stakeholders will consider new  ideas from industry based on the strategy, and select some for prioritization and maturation. The Air Force anticipates four to seven awards, each in the $1 million to $2 million range. (Air Force)
  • TRICARE said it will be conducting a second open season for its nearly 5 million members eligible for the health insurance. Open season will run from Nov. 11 to Dec. 9. During that time active duty family members, retired service members and their families can change their TRICARE health plan, enroll in one or simply not take action. The plans will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. (Federal News Network)
  • The Senate on Thursday passed a seven-week continuing resolution and sent it to the White House for the president’s expected signature. The CR would keep agencies funded at current levels through Nov. 21. House and Senate leadership said that should give them enough time to come to some sort of permanent funding solution for 2020. The CR doesn’t address federal pay. House and Senate leadership must conference over exactly how much of a raise civilian federal employees would receive in 2020 — either the House-passed 3.1% raise or the president’s proposed 2.6% bump. (Federal News Network)
  • House lawmakers have found some consensus on a few ideas designed to improve agencies’ talent pipeline. House Oversight and Reform Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said Congress should focus on expanding the number of federal interns. The number of intern hires dropped from 35,000 in 2010, to just 4,000 in 2018. Federal paid family leave is another area of consensus. Both the National Treasury Employees Union and the Heritage Foundation said the  government is losing out on talent without a paid leave program.
    (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department said it is limiting the use of lowest-price technically acceptable -(LPTA) type of procurements in regulation. A new Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement final rule published on Wednesday lays out specific prohibitions for LPTA contracts such as when DoD is buying auditing services, personal protective equipment or an aviation critical safety item. DoD tried to limit the use of LPTA through policy in 2015, but a new GAO report estimates that the military services used the LPTA process for only 25% of competitive contracts worth more than $5 million. The final rule goes into effect on Oct. 1. (Federal Register)
  • The Air Force said it needs more coders than it’s able to hire. To resolve the problem, it has launched a re-skilling program to help meet its need for cyber talent. Col. Jason Brown, director of the strategic service group for the Air Force chief of staff, said the training includes technology boot camps and massive open online courses. Brown said the service is also looking at ways to certify airmen for skills necessary to work on artificial intelligence tools. (Federal News Network)
  • The Social Security Administration’s anti-fraud task force said it is expanding to three more states to bring the total to 43 states and territories. SSA said it’s adding investigative teams working under the Cooperative Disability Investigations Program to North Dakota, Idaho and Montana. The agency said its goal is to have anti-fraud teams in all 50 states and U.S. territories by 2022. The CDI program has saved more than $7 billion since 1997. (Social Security)

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