Military commissaries, exchanges will have wider customer base in 2020

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  • The Defense Department said it plans to open up its commissaries and exchanges to 4.1 million new customers on New Year’s Day. The changes were mandated by Congress as part of last year’s National Defense Authorization Act. Veterans with service-connected disabilities, Purple Heart recipients and former prisoners of war will be allowed to shop in the on-base grocery and retail stores. Their caregivers will be eligible too. The military services are changing their access control procedures so eligible veterans can get on base using their Department of Veterans Affairs health ID cards. Commissaries will charge the new patrons a fee of up to 1.9% if they’re paying by credit card. (Department of Defense)
  • The president has given the Federal Labor Relations Authority the go-ahead to get rid of the chairman and any of the members on the Federal Service Impasses Panel. A new memo from the White House said the FLRA should consider decisions from the panel’s members when choosing to remove someone. Impasse panel members are appointed by the president and not subject to Senate confirmation. An American Federation of Government Employees local representing employees at the Social Security Administration sued the FLRA and the impasses panel earlier this summer. The union questioned the legality of the panel because members haven’t been Senate-confirmed. (White House)
  • The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board reaffirmed its 2017 decision to move the TSP’s international fund to a new index. The board said the TSP should move on with its plans to use an emerging markets index as the new benchmark for the I fund. The new index includes Chinese companies. The decision comes amid bipartisan concern from lawmakers. But board members said it’s up to them to make decisions in the best fiduciary interests of TSP participants, not political decisions. (Federal News Network)
  • The Combined Federal Campaign’s National Capital Region is launching its first ever spirit week in early December to encourage more donations. It will run Dec. 1-6. It coincides with Giving Tuesday and International Volunteer Day. The CFC said donations in the National Capital Region are up 20% so far this year. The region’s goal is to raise $34 million. The 2019 campaign ends Jan. 12.
  • Agencies have about a month to deliver a website modernization strategy to Congress under the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience or IDEA Act. But the governmentwide Federal Web Council is there to help them meet the deadline. The General Services Administration said the council has met with agencies, and gathered feedback on what goals remain unclear in the IDEA Act. The council is chaired by a member of GSA’s Office of Government-wide Policy, and a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Public Affairs. (General Services Administration)
  • Agencies might get a new grade on their IDEA Act implementation in future versions of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA scorecard. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, said he supports adding the new grade on the scorecard. Connolly said changing the scorecard would give agencies metrics to make website modernization a top priority. (Federal News Network)
  • Protests stalled GSA’s IT products contract. Two unsuccessful bidders filed complaints with the Government Accountability Office over being excluded from the 2nd Generation IT multiple award contract. The General Services Administration awarded 75 companies a spot on the $5.5 billion IT products contract earlier this month. Red River Technology, a large business, and Blue Tech, a women-owned HUBZone small business, filed protests with GAO on Nov. 8 and Nov. 12, respectively. GAO will decide both complaints by early February. (Government Accountability Office)
  • The State Department is looking for the next generation of IT hires to sign up for a five-year stint in the Foreign Service. The department is accepting applications for the fourth class of its Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship. The fellowship started as a pilot in 2017, and aims to bring a diverse pool of talent to the department’s IT ranks. The department will accept applications until Feb. 14. (The Washington Center)
  • NASA may get its first authorization bill since 2017. The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously passed bipartisan legislation which addresses certain programs within the agency. Among other things, the bill would establish a three-year pilot program allowing the NASA administrator to appoint and set the salaries of up to 5,000 employees. It would also allow the administrator to establish consortia and research centers for new capabilities and analysis. It also extends funding for the international space station, and provides guidance for future Mars and moon missions. (Sen. Ted Cruz)
  • A former VA employee was indicted alongside his daughter and ex-wife for health care and wire fraud. The Justice Department accused Miller Wilson Jr. of taking kickbacks from transportation vendors, in exchange for awarding them health care contracts from the VA. His daughter and ex-wife then created their own companies to which he also funneled contracts, according to the indictment. (Department of Justice)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with new figures showing nearly 3 million people become infected in the U.S. every year, and 35,000 people die, from antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi. CDC is watching 18 such bugs but Director Dr. Robert Redfield said yearly deaths from resistant bugs have fallen 18% since the last report in 2013, thanks to more hospitals following CDC guidelines for careful use of drugs. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • With the House beginning impeachment hearings Wednesday, Federal News Network wants to know if you will be distracted from your daily work. Former federal officials said the 1998 impeachment hearings of President Bill Clinton had little impact on the federal workforce. But with social media and having constant online access, will federal employees find themselves caught up in the hourly news cycle? Tell us what you think by taking our survey. (Federal News Network)

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