To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe on PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.
Some federal employees will get a chance to sound off about their benefits this fall. That’s when the Office of Personnel Management said it will administer the Federal Employee Benefits Survey to a sample of 50,000 employees. The goal is to measure the importance, value and adequacy of federal benefits to make sure they meet employees’ needs. The survey will also evaluate whether employees actually understand their benefits. The survey will run for four weeks online. Employees will receive a link to take the survey by email. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
Census experts are taking to Reddit to dispel some of the myths and rumors surrounding the 2020 count. The social media platform has launched a series of “Ask Me Anything” online chats, to get ahead of any misinformation campaigns about the census. The AMA chats will feature former congressional staffers, academics, and good-government groups. (Reddit)
The Social Security Administration has reached a six-year bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees. The two parties have agreed to give AFGE some office space and an official time bank of 125,000 hours. Twenty union representatives will be capped at 840 hours of official time, while all other representatives will get a 400-hour cap. The Federal Conciliation and Mediation Service praised the compromises the two parties made to reach this agreement. Both the union and SSA have been negotiating for over a year. (Federal Conciliation and Mediation Service)
The White House extended 30 federal advisory committees for another two years. President Donald Trump signed an executive order giving life to these committees through Sept. 30, 2021. The order comes despite the administration’s mandate to reduce the number of federal advisory committees. The committees included the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, the National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee and the National Infrastructure Advisory Council. (White House)
The Department of Veterans Affairs is updating its medical information sharing guidelines for veterans who use community care. VA will now automatically share veterans’ medical information electronically with community providers using its Veterans Health Information Exchange. Veterans who don’t want their information shared must opt out by submitting a form to their nearest VA medical center. Veterans who previously opted out don’t need to again. The VA MISSION Act allowed VA to change its medical information sharing procedures. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
A bipartisan bill in the Senate would set up a one-stop-shop for agencies to post their annual budget justification documents. The bill would task the Office of Management and Budget with keeping track of when agencies submit their budget justifications to Congress, and providing links to the documents on a single web page. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said their bill would make federal spending data more transparent. (Sen. Rob Portman)
House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) announces he’s retiring at the end of his term. Thornberry served as chairman of the committee from 2015 to 2019. Thornberry is responsible for many of the acquisition reforms added to the defense policy laws over the years. In 25 years and 13 terms, he helped push acquisition authority back down to the military services and reduced paperwork requirements for program managers. Thornberry is the sixth Texas Republican to announce plans to leave Congress. (Rep. Mac Thornberry)
More leadership changes are happening at the top of the Defense Department. Army Gen. Mark Milley was sworn in Monday as the 20th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley had been the Army’s top officer, and he replaces Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who’s retiring, as the top military advisor to the president and the secretary of Defense. Also on Monday, Ryan McCarthy took over as secretary of the Army. That position opened up when the Senate confirmed Mark Esper as the new Defense secretary this summer.
The Air Force’s Air University Officer Training School graduated its largest class since 1967. Dubbed the “Godzilla” class, the school trained 800 new officers. The training school was forced to take on such a big group to make up for holes in ROTC and Air Force Academy accessions. It was also on a time crunch to finish training officers by the end of the fiscal year. (Federal News Network)
Military services and agencies take a step closer toward fully managed IT services. The Army awarded three proof-of-concept contracts for Enterprise IT-as-a-service. The Defense Health Agency released a request for information as part of its market intelligence to outsource much of its technology. The Air Force extends its ongoing pilot for another year and adds $45 million to the total. These are the latest three examples of how Enterprise IT-as-a-service is taking hold across DoD. The Army awarded three contracts to AT&T, Microsoft and Verizon worth a total of more than $34 million to run this proof of concept. (Federal News Network)
There’s been progress in the IRS not re-hiring former employees with a history of performance issues, but its top watchdog said there’s still room for improvement. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that out of 1,500 employees the agency re-hired between October 2017 and June 2018 only 2% had prior performance issues. That’s compared to 10% of re-hires that TIGTRA flagged between 2015 and 2016. (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration)