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A bill reintroduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) would give federal employees bonuses for flagging agency programs with more money than they can spend. The Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act would allow agency inspectors general to award up to $10,000, for reporting surplus or unneeded agency funds. IG offices can already award bonuses to employees who spot agency fraud, waste, or abuse. A version of this bill passed the House in 2017, but hasn’t made it out of committee in this session of Congress. (Sen. Rand Paul)
A scathing review of the Veterans Affairs department’s new whistleblower protection and accountability office said the office’s leadership failed to meet many of the missions Congress gave it, partly because they misinterpreted or misunderstood the law. Among a host of other problems, the Inspector General at VA said the office put whistleblowers in danger by referring their cases back to the VA offices they were complaining about, and failing to protect their identities. (Federal News Network)
With an improper payment rate of more than 8% that equals a total payout of more than $31 billion, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) said it is looking for a better way to ensure proper claims payment, reduce provider burden and overall, conduct program integrity activities in a more efficient manner. CMS issued a request for information asking industry for input on how emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning could help. The RFI wants insights cross five areas, including medical record review tools, data analytics and Contract Level Risk Adjustment Data Validation audits. Responses to the RFI are due Nov. 20. (FedBizOpps)
The Senate has joined the House in not approving the Trump administration’s request of $50 million for merging the Office of Personnel Management into the General Services Administration. Russ Vought wrote to Senate appropriators earlier this week once again making the administration’s case for why the merger should happen. But now that merger seems unlikely to happen in 2020. The House also zeroed out the funding request in its version of the Financial Services and General Government spending bill. (Federal News Network)
Pentagon spending on classified programs dropped slightly in fiscal 2019. DoD released the top-line number yesterday: $21.5 billion. That’s down from $22.1 billion the year before. It’s the first time in three years DoD’s classified budget has gone down, according to analysis of spending figures by Defense News. (Department of Defense)
House and Senate negotiators are having trouble coming to terms on this year’s Defense authorization bill. So the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is preparing a Plan B. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he plans to introduce what he calls a “skinny” Defense policy bill next week. It would leave out the more contentious issues being debated between the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House, such as the president’s proposed border wall. The bill would mostly authorize routine matters that need to be handled by the end of this year, including special pay authorities for military members. Inhofe said he’s still hopeful lawmakers can reach an agreement on a full NDAA by the end of this year, but wants to be ready in case they don’t. (Sen. James Inhofe)
A nonpartisan, non-profit organization, has started to push-back against a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the bill to prevent future government shutdowns would cost more than $12 trillion over 10 years. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the Prevent Government Shutdowns Act would have little fiscal impact and would potentially save money. The bill, sponsored by Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), would automatically implement at continuing resolution if Congress failed to pass appropriations bills by Oct. 1. (Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget)
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) and 31 other lawmakers from both chambers of Congress have asked House and Senate appropriations committee members to block the Agriculture Department’s relocation plans. The Senate allocated $25 million in its version of the 2020 spending bill for USDA to move its Economic Research Service and National Institute for Food and Agriculture to Kansas City. The lawmakers said the move will increasingly jeopardize ERS and NIFA’s ability to continue their critical work as well as cause irreparable harm to the federal scientific workforce. (Rep. Jennifer Wexton)
The Securities and Exchange Commission faces a lawsuit over a freedom of information act request. The Sierra Club, an environmental group, said the SEC failed to respond to a FOIA request filed in April. The club wants records relating to what it calls a drastic increase in SEC decisions, letting companies leave shareholder resolutions related to climate change off of proxy statements. The suit claims the agency has made a sharp break from precedent, letting companies reject a dozen climate resolutions in the last 18 months.