VA concerned about allegations against prominent federal labor leader

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  • The Department of Veterans Affairs said it’s concerned by recent allegations of sexual harassment against American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie wrote to acting AFGE National President Everett Kelley. He wants personal assurance that it will protect VA bargaining unit employees from sexual harassment. He said it’s unclear how deep the reported problems go within the union and VA employees shouldn’t feel frustrated, neglected or ignored by AFGE leadership. (Federal News Network)
  • Federal employees headed into work Friday, Nov. 22, as the president has signed a four week continuing resolution. The CR keeps agencies funded at their current levels through Dec. 20. It also includes a 3.1% percent military pay raise, additional Census funding and extensions to expiring health care programs. The CR buys Congress more time to continue budget negotiations. Disagreements over border wall spending are still holding up progress. Congressional leaders say they still want to conference and pass all 12 appropriations bills in some form or another for 2020. (Federal News Network)
  • Forty-four Senate Democrats are urging congressional leadership to include House-passed appropriations language designed to protect unions during future collective bargaining negotiations. The House included language in a 2020 spending bill that would prevent agencies from implementing a labor contract to which unions haven’t agreed. Several agencies this year implemented management proposals their unions never approved. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said the language would safeguard federal employees and their collective bargaining rights. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
  • Veterans wait while their claims appeals languish in boxes, bins and filing cabinets. In an audit of appeals for payments to outside health providers initially turned down, the VA inspector general found problems. Managers in VA’s Payment Operations and Management directorate could not track the literal paperwork backlog of unprocessed appeals, didn’t oversee the appeals function itself, and failed to prepare for a law to modernize the whole process. Unprocessed appeals sat around various locations for an average of nearly two years. Payment managers said they’re making progress. (Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General)
  • The IRS’ advisory board recommends the agency partner with private-sector tax practitioners and tax software vendors to revamp its customer experience strategy. The federal advisory council said a new strategy should focus on getting the IRS to embrace agile development, and allow private-sector partners to help improve the taxpayer experience. The agency developed its last customer experience strategy in 2015. (IRS)
  • The Air Force is investing in three vanguard programs that it labels as game changers, which will be quickly transitioned into programs of record. The vanguard program idea is part of the Air Force’s science and technology strategy, which rethinks the way the service invests its research funds. The three programs are Golden Horde, a network of precision guided missiles; Navigation Technology Satellite 3, an advanced GPS capability; and Skyborg, artificial intelligence-manned drones that fly with fighter jets.
  • The Navy is suffering a shortfall of spare parts for its fighter jets because of supply chain management problems that go back decades. The Pentagon’s inspector general said five critical parts that are needed to keep the F-18 in operation are in short supply. Because of that, maintainers have been cannibalizing parts from some aircraft to keep others flying. Navy officials say budget cuts are partly to blame, but the IG says the Navy may have been able to avoid the problems if it had done the supply chain studies DoD policy requires. They’re supposed to happen every five years. But F-18 program managers went 18 years without conducting a logistics assessment. (Department of Defense)
  • Defense officials could do a better job helping contractors transition to changes in TRICARE. A Government Accountability Office report said in the most recent, fourth generation of TRICARE contracts, businesses had trouble meeting deadlines for processing referrals and claims because the transition guidance was not specific enough to prepare them. GAO said DoD should improve guidelines and oversight and define data sharing requirements more specifically to ease future transitions. (Government Accountability Office)
  • DoD is looking to develop predictive analytics capabilities through an update to its Defense Readiness Reporting System. Veronica Daigle, assistant secretary of defense for readiness, said an update to the system mandated in the 2019 defense spending bill would allow the agency to move from static data snapshots to predictive analytics. Chief Data Officer Michael Conlin said the update would allow for better enterprise-wide decision-making. (Federal News Network)
  • A key cyber official is leaving government after more than a decade. Jeanette Manfra, the assistant director for cybersecurity at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in DHS, is heading to the private sector. Manfra announced on Twitter her decision to leave DHS at the end of the year. She has worked at the agency for 12 years. During her tenure, she led several significant governmentwide cybersecurity efforts, including the update to the TIC policy and the response to cyber attacks like WannaCry. Manfra didn’t say where she would be heading next. Richard Driggers serves as CISA’s deputy assistant director for cybersecurity. (Federal News Network)

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