Agencies extend public comment period for some proposals after Regulations.gov outage

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  • Agencies are giving the public more time to comment on proposed rules after a temporary outage of Regulations.gov. For example, the Federal Trade Commission has extended its deadline to Wednesday for comments on its review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule, which limits what information is collected on young children online. Bloomberg reported that the Labor Department has also given the public until Wednesday to comment on a proposed rule, that would define which service employees would receive income from tipping. (Federal Trade Commission)
  • Federal employees may be close to a win on paid parental leave. Congress and the White House have agreed to grant up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act. The program would allow federal employees to take paid time off for the birth, adoption or fostering of a new child. But it wouldn’t apply to federal employees who want paid time off to care for a sick family member, or themselves. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Congress will need to revisit paid medical leave for the federal workforce. (Federal News Network)
  • Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and some Democratic colleagues are calling on the Social Security Administration to reverse its decision to end telework for some 12,000 operations employees. They say SSA’s new bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees doesn’t justify the end of telework for those workers. They also say they’re concerned the agency hasn’t given employees enough time to change their arrangements. Senators also fear ending telework will make SSA’s customer service challenges worse, not better. (Sen. Ben Cardin)
  • Congress wants to put a definitive pause on the Trump administration’s proposed merger of the Office of Personnel Management with the General Services Administration. The latest defense authorization conference report includes language that would temporarily block the OPM-GSA merger. It prevents anyone from assigning, transferring, merging or consolidating any function, responsibility, service, system and program at OPM to GSA, or the Executive Office of the President. The measure instructs OPM to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration. NAPA will study OPM’s structure and mission and will present its findings to Congress. (Federal News Network)
  • Federal acquisition leaders know the roles of agency contracting officers are changing, but they aren’t quite sure how to adapt to the evolution. A new survey by the National Contract Management Association found senior procurement executives recognized the urgency of change needed to overcome a culture of risk aversion. The senior procurement executives say advances in data analytics and technology are reshaping contracting as is the need for agility, speed and innovation. NCMA says it will now survey the front-line workers to gauge their take on the current situation. (National Contract Management Association)
  • We’re finally seeing the details behind Amazon’s lawsuit challenging the Pentagon’s multibillion dollar cloud computing contract. The Court of Federal Claims released a heavily-redacted version of Amazon’s complaint yesterday. It claims Amazon Web Services should have easily won the JEDI cloud contract on a purely technical basis, but that DoD took repeated steps to undervalue Amazon’s bid, and improperly level the playing field so Microsoft could win. Company attorneys say those actions are inexplicable – apart from the fact that President Donald Trump had criticized Amazon’s role in the procurement. They claim Defense officials consciously or unconsciously made decisions to suit his wishes. (Federal News Network)
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon found $5 billion in savings over the past four months through its zero-based review process. Esper said DoD found those savings by divesting in legacy systems and cutting back on redundancies. It will continue its review early next year by asking the office of the secretary of defense, the joint staff and the combatant commanders to find areas where they can save money. The newly freed funds will go into further aligning the Pentagon with the National Defense Strategy. (Federal News Network)
  • The surgeons general of the military services broke down exactly how many billets each branch would lose under DoD’s new plan to shrink the medical corps. The Air Force will get rid of 4,000 medical jobs, the Army will shed nearly 7,000 and the Navy will cut about 5,400. The jobs are being cut as operations in the Middle East wind down. DoD plans to eliminate the jobs since the military does not plan to be as active in the Middle East and because it wants to make the military more lethal. Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee said they were concerned about the number of medical billets on the chopping block. (House Armed Services Committee)
  • More than 5 million users are registered on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ online patient portal. VA said it’s a major milestone for My HealtheVet. The site launched back in 2003. It allows veterans to refill prescriptions, view scheduled VA appointments, send secure messages to their health care teams and download their personal health records. VA said veterans have used the site to download over 37 million records, refill 148 million prescriptions and send at least 86 million messages. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • VA said its disability claims backlog is at its lowest point ever. VA said it handled 1.4 million claims at the end of fiscal 2019. That’s 4% more than the previous best-ever year back in 2015. VA processed about three-quarters of disability claims within its target of 125 days. The department said most veterans who apply for disability benefits get a response within 107 days. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • A tax academic and lawyer joined the IRS to take a highly visible job. Sharyn Fisk will lead the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, which oversees people like accountants, attorneys, and preparers who practice before the agency. So-called Circular 230 matters. Fisk has represented individuals and corporate taxpayers not only before the IRS but also before the Department of Justice Tax Division, and federal and state courts. She is currently a professor of tax at California Polytechnic Pomona. The agency says Fisk will join in early 2020. (IRS)
  • Federal Statistician Nancy Potok will retire at the end of this year, after spending much of it coordinating the rollout of the Trump administration’s data-centric policies. Nearly three years on the job, Potok led work on the Federal Data Strategy, and implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. Prior to her time at the Office of Management and Budget, she held multiple jobs at the Census Bureau, including deputy director and chief operating officer. She also served as the deputy undersecretary for economic affairs at the Commerce Department. (Federal News Network)
  • A key OMB staff member is leaving to head up an industry association. Matthew Cornelius spent the last three years working behind the scenes on IT modernization policies and programs for the Office of Management and Budget. Now he’s taking his experience to the private sector. Cornelius is the new executive director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation, a newish industry association. At ADI, Cornelius says he wants to continue to improve the federal market’s capabilities for buying and using technology. During his time at OMB, he worked on implementing the Technology Modernization Act and ensured the IT modernization goals of the President’s Management Agenda were met. Along with OMB, Cornelius worked at GSA and the Treasury Department. (Federal News Network)

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