Bill to eliminate pay cap for VA’s top healthcare workers passes Senate

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  • A bill designed to end an old pay cap for top health professionals at the Department of Veterans Affairs easily passed the Senate. The Competitive Pay for Leaders in Veterans Health Care Act will correct an unintended consequence from a 2010 bill that was supposed to help VA fill Senior Executive Service positions. The bill specifically will exclude Title 38 SES members from an existing salary cap. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee leaders Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the bill that now heads to the House.
  • The Office of Management and Budget has proposed a major overhaul of the regulations for federal grants. A draft notice in the Federal Register proposes changes to the code of federal regulations to ensure more consistency across the grant making process and focus measuring the impact of grants based on recipient goals. OMB says the guidance is part of the administration’s effort to improve the entire process and relieve the burden on grantees. Comments on the revised regulations are due in 60 days.
  • A three-decade long employee at the General Services Administration is heading to a new home in the federal government. Mary Davie has spent her entire 30-year federal career at GSA but now has decided it’s time to move on. She is taking a position at NASA to oversee organizational transformation efforts in the space agency’s mission directorate. Davie will start at NASA on February 3. During her tenure at GSA, Davie has held key roles across the Federal Acquisition Service, including as acting commissioner, deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner for both the assisted acquisition service office and the IT category office. She has been involved in nearly every major acquisition policy or initiative from GSA in the last 30 years. (Federal News Network)
  • Veterans Affairs is touting progress on its backlog of legacy disability compensation appeals. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie says the backlog of appeals and notices of disagreement was significantly down at the end of 2019. The existing backlog sits at 96,350, compared to 292,452 in March 2016. Wilkie says the Veterans Benefits Administration has seen progress despite getting another new 770,000 appeals within that time period. He says VBA is on track to eliminate its backlog of legacy appeals by July 4. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to send a former Coast Guard Lieutenant to prison for 25 years. Christopher Hasson was arrested last year for an alleged plot to murder Supreme Court justices, Democratic politicians and journalists. He plead guilty to gun and drug charges, and is scheduled to be sentenced at the end of the month. His defense attorneys are asking for no additional prison time. (Federal News Network)
  • A former commander of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay has been convicted of several charges in connection with the death of a civilian at the naval base. The Justice Department says Capt. John Nettleton lied to law enforcement during the investigation into the drowning of Christopher Tur, who at the time was the Loss Prevention Safety Manager at GTMO’s Naval Exchange. (Department of Justice)
  • The Justice Department says Amazon misused its rights to redact documents in its lawsuit challenging DoD’s JEDI contract, but a federal judge is declining to intervene. Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith denied the government’s request to force Amazon to refile the public version of its lawsuit – this time with fewer sections blacked out. In a ruling yesterday, she said the court will handle redaction disputes once the lawsuit reaches its conclusion. That’s likely to take several more months. DOJ argues Amazon’s redactions were overbroad and selective, and claims they were meant to influence public opinion in the case. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force will test and demonstrate its Advances Battle Management System every four months in an attempt to continually evolve and update the network. Will Roper, assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, says the system will lay the groundwork for future artificial intelligence and joint connectivity that the military services can use in battle. The system’s end goal is to give real-time processed data to warfighters so they can make immediate decisions. (Federal News Network)
  • In the fight to compete with private shippers, the Postal Service spent more than $5 billion  on unique operations mandated under federal law in fiscal 2018. Those are the highest costs for the agency in at least five years, according to the Postal Regulatory Commission’s annual report, which tracks the cost of USPS’s universal service obligation to deliver mail to every U.S. address six days a week. The report highlights the rising cost of providing mail service in areas the Postal Service wouldn’t otherwise serve, and the cost of running the Postal Inspection Service.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general will look into whether a regional office lost federal records during a routine backup of its data. The IG review will also look at whether EPA Region 5 followed procedures to investigate the potential loss of its data. EPA’s region five covers Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin and 35 tribal nations. The IG office launched its review after receiving a tip last year from its hotline. (Environmental Protection Agency)
  • 31 lawmakers are questioning the Trump administration’s use of military funds to build a wall on the southern border. The White House wants to take $7.2 billion from the military’s construction and drug interdiction funds for the barrier in 2020. House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Anthony Brown (D-Md.) signed the letter asking the Defense Department to identify which installations construction will be delayed by the transfer of funds, and how it will have an impact on the volume and seizure of narcotics along the southwest border.
  • While Washington D.C. was riveted to an impeachment trial, a distant village in Alaska was the first to be counted in the 2020 decennial census. Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham traveled to Toksook Bay, which in 2017 had a population of 661, to launch the 2020 count. He personally handed a questionnaire to a household designated by local leaders. The bureau has already launched a $500 million dollar advertising campaign to boost public awareness of the count. Most households can expect invitations to respond starting March 12. (U.S. Census Bureau)

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