OPM unveils updated plan comparison tool as Open Season gets underway

In today's Federal Newscast, Open Season is underway and the Office of Personnel Management says it has updated its tool for participants to compare plans.

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  • Open season is underway and participants have until Dec. 9 to change their plans under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The Office of Personnel Management said it updated its plan comparison tool this year. The tool allows FEHBP participants to compare plans based on the cost of monthly premiums, annual deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. Open season also gives employees a chance to make changes to their federal dental, vision and flexible spending account benefits. (Office of Personnel Management)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is reminding federal employees how they should respond to operating status changes in light of severe weather or another emergency. Telework-eligible employees are generally supposed to work remotely if their agency’s office closes for all or part of the day. Nontelework-eligible employees should get weather and safety leave. Employees in the Washington Capital Beltway region should look for updates from OPM during severe weather. Employees outside the Beltway should look for an announcement from their agencies. (Federal News Network)
  • The American Federation of Government Employees is calling on Social Security Administration Commissioner Andrew Saul to reverse his decision to end the agency’s telework program. AFGE Council 220 represents field and regional office employees. It said customer service will suffer without telework. AFGE also wants a congressional review of the decision. The local said SSA employees were often able to take on more tasks while working remotely. AFGE is calling on Congress to review SSA’s decision and hold hearings on the agency’s collective bargaining agreement.
  • Federal agencies have made major progress over the last two years in complying with the DATA Act. But the government as a whole has a long way to go. The transparency law requires agencies to report detailed spending data to the public via USASpending.gov. According to the Government Accountability Office, 11 agencies failed to do that in the last quarter of 2018. But it’s still an improvement from two years ago, when 28 agencies fell short. GAO said the data is getting more accurate, too. It estimates between 24% and 34% of contract awards were reported on the website accurately in the last quarter. That’s compared to an estimate of 1% or less in 2017. (Government Accountability Office)
  • For the first time since 2016, readiness is not one of the top management challenges for the Pentagon as identified by the Defense Department inspector general. An annual report outlining the top ten challenges took readiness off of the 2020 list because DoD has made significant increases over the past few years. That’s partly due to sustained and on-time funding from Congress. The military services started rebuilding readiness in 2017. Since then DoD put money into building end strength, repairing equipment and modernizing systems. Other issues still regularly on the list are countering threats from Russia, China and Iran, and increasing DoD’s cyber abilities. (Federal News Network)
  • A potential $732 million contract to sustain the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System was awarded. The program is a narrowband military communications satellite group that supports users who need greater mobility and higher quality calls, data and video communications. General Dynamics will sustain the ground infrastructure of the communications platform for a maximum of 10 years. (Department of Defense)
  • The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency is looking for new ways to collect and share fingerprints. The new security clearance agency is asking vendors for some ideas on how to modernize the Secure Web Fingerprint Transmission-plus capability. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency released a request for information seeking feedback on seven concepts to improve SWFT-plus. SWFT-plus is the enterprise capability for the capture, storage, and forwarding of electronic fingerprints. Among the areas DCSA seeks information about are connecting to commercial fingerprint networks, and how best to take advantage of new devices and new biometric technologies. RFI responses are due Dec. 4. (FedBizOpps)
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Army officer who’s spoken to House investigators as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry shouldn’t fear retaliation. Esper told Defense One that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman will be afforded the same protections that cover any other whistleblower in the department. Vindman is a Ukraine specialist who’s currently detailed to the National Security Council. (Federal News Network)
  • Confusion over multiple governmentwide mentor-protégé programs could be coming to an end. The Small Business Administration is proposing to merge the 8(a) and all-small business mentor-protégé programs into one. SBA said its proposed rule would eliminate redundancy and burden as part of the Trump administration’s governmentwide regulatory reform initiative. Additionally, the proposed rule would simplify the 8(a) program requirements for joint ventures, and require small firms to recertify their size and/or socioeconomic status for all set-aside orders under unrestricted multiple award contracts and where the required socioeconomic status for the order differs from that of the underlying set-aside MAC contract. Comments on the proposed rule are due Jan. 17. (Federal Register)
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency has walked away from plans to move to a consolidated Department of Homeland Security campus. FEMA will instead pursue long-term leased office space at its current location in Southwest D.C., or in the General Services Administration’s National Capital Region Building near L’Enfant Plaza. DHS and GSA had asked Congress for more than $170 million in fiscal 2019, to build a FEMA headquarters at its Saint Elizabeth’s campus, but only got $120 million for the project. (Federal News Network)
  • GSA and the Energy Department seek industry feedback on ways to make buildings more energy efficient. The agencies have put out a request for information, asking vendors for input on the development of a Grid-interactive Efficient Building, or GEB strategy. A study published earlier this year found GSA could cut costs by deploying this kind of energy strategy government-wide. (FedBizOpps)
  • The EPA inspector general sent a stern letter to the administrator concerning what the IG calls flagrant violations. The so-called seven-day letter, hand delivered, concerns the EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson. In it, acting IG Charles Sheehan told administrator Andrew Wheeler that Jackson has repeatedly failed to cooperate with investigators seeking interviews or asking for information, cooperation Sheehan said has been patiently and repeatedly sought on 10 occasions. Now Wheeler has seven days to transmit the letter to Congress. (Environmental Protection Agency)

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