US claims victory in compromise on international mail delivery

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  • The Trump administration has declared victory in an international compromise that will allow the Postal Service to collect higher fees for delivery of small international packages entering the United States. That’s part of the deal the administration won after threatening to leave the international postal organization known as the United Postal Union. Trade adviser Peter Navarro said the new rates that go into effect in June 2020 will save the Postal Service $500 million. The issue centered on the “last leg” of shipments, once the bulky letters and small parcels leave their country of origin — where the postage is paid — and enter a destination country. It requires postal services in the destination countries to incur costs that they later have to pass back to the originating country. (AP)
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals has denied federal employee unions a chance for a re-hearing on the president’s workforce executive orders. Unions had asked to have their case reviewed by a full panel of appeals judges after the court decided that the federal district court didn’t have jurisdiction over the case in the first place. The appeals court must physically lift the injunction on the executive orders before agencies can begin implementing them. Federal employee unions said they are disappointed with the decision and are discussing what options, if any, they have. (Federal News Network)
  • House Armed Services Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) has warned the Defense Department’s deadline for a plan on reducing its fourth estate is due on Oct. 1. The fourth estate refers to the agencies that do not fall under the military services, but rather under DoD as a whole. The 2019 defense authorization act asked DoD to provide a way to find 25% savings from the fourth estate. (Rep. Thornberry)
  • A survey targeting airmen working in Air Force Materiel Command found IT infrastructure and facility quality topped their list of concerns. Air Force Materiel Command launched the study last May and it received more than 88,000 responses through questionnaires and in-person interviews. Materiel Command leader Gen. Arnold Bunch said “our airmen are our most precious resource, and their candid feedback will drive the changes we need to make in this command.“ He has set up a new office to facilitate and track changes across the organization. (Air Force)
  • The proposed Space Force is still being debated by members of Congress, but the public is going to have to wait even longer than expected to find out what it’s going to look like. The annual defense policy bill won’t be finished up before Congress goes on a two week fall recess starting this afternoon. The bill, which has been reliably voted into law more than 50 years in a row, is running late and won’t be finished by the new fiscal year. Both the House and Senate passed their versions of the bill and are currently in conference hammering out the difference between the two pieces of legislation. Most notably, they are debating if or how a new Space Force will be created. The House version explicitly creates a new military service, while the Senate version of the bill is more cautious. (Federal News Network)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deputy director Anne Schuchat and Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Norman Sharpless said they’re doing all they can to investigate and regulate vaping products. The comments came under questioning by members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee. Sharpless detailed two years of activity. He said FDA, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the CDC are all sharing data. Schuchat said not enough data has come in to fully understand the trends. (House Energy/Commerce)
  • An attempt to insist lawmakers conference over a House proposal to implement a federal paid family leave program has failed in the Senate. Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz (D) introduced a motion to guarantee conferees discuss the paid family leave proposal in their upcoming negotiations on the annual defense authorization bill. The motion failed by one vote. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association has been pushing senators to consider the House proposal. Members may still conference over the leave program, but it’s not guaranteed. (NARFE)
  • The Office of Personnel Management has issued new guidance to agencies for reviewing and updating their performance management policies. The goal is to find and remove parts of the disciplinary process that are unnecessary and not required by law. OPM said the guidance is designed to respond to feedback from agency managers who said the process is too long. Agencies are supposed to finish their reviews and updates by the end of March. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department and General Services Administration have entered into a mutually beneficial partnership on artificial intelligence. DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center needs help in growing its technology capabilities. GSA wants to set up an AI Centers of Excellence. The two agencies announced yesterday they are partnering under the Centers of Excellence initiative to meet both goals. GSA said it will help the JAIC accelerate the delivery of AI-enabled capabilities, scale the impact of AI department-wide and synchronize DoD AI activities. (Federal News Network)
  • Two more vendors can now start fulfilling orders under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions telecommunications contract. GSA said Harris Corporation and BT Federal have earned a three-year cybersecurity authorization for their business systems. There now are five vendors authorized under the EIS contract to provide network and technology modernization services to agencies. Four others should meet the cybersecurity requirements by the end of December. (GSA)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced plans to expand the Caregiver Support Program. VA said it will deploy a new off-the-shelf caregiver IT system next month. But the department said it won’t officially expand the caregiver benefits program until the VA secretary can certify the IT system is fully implemented some time next summer. VA was supposed to expand the caregivers program to families of veterans seriously injured before Sept. 11. (VA)

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