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A group of House Republicans want to overhaul federal employee pay, performance awards and hiring systems. The Republican Study Committee is out with another report detailing its ideas for a more efficient and effective government. Members say federal employees are overpaid and have little incentive to perform at the highest levels. They also recommended cutting official time and reducing federal retirement packages. Members also suggested merging some of the functions of the Office of Personnel Management with the Executive Office of the President.
Participation in phased retirement picked up slightly in 2019. But it still falls short of Congress’ expectations when it enacted the law back in 2012. To date, 632 federal employees have signed up for phased retirement. Roughly 450 of them have completed the entire program and are now retired. Congress initially projected 1,000 federal employees would be part of phased retirement at any given time each year. NASA, the EPA and Interior are the among the agencies with the most employees in phased retirement. (Federal News Network)
A former private-sector executive is tapped to head up the Energy Department’s artificial intelligence center. Agency officials have sworn in Cheryl Ingstad to lead the Artificial Intelligence & Technology Office it stood up last September. In this role, she’ll oversee the agency’s development, coordination and application of AI technology. Prior to this job, she led efforts at 3M to commercialize AI and machine learning research.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launches rule-making to carry out a Trump administration executive order on prescription drug pricing. The proposed rule covers so-called Part D of Medicare, under which providers offer drug plans. CMS rule would require plans to display up-to-the-minute drug price comparisons so Medicare recipients could shop for lower prices or generic alternatives. The 895-page rule would impose new reporting requirements on Part D plans, aimed at improving the accuracy of star ratings patients use to compare plans. CMS will publish the proposed rule Feb. 18.
Members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation are asking the Pentagon for answers on why it’s withholding funds from two Army medical research labs. In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, lawmakers said they’ve learned DoD has blocked $104-million from facilities at Fort Detrick and Aberdeen Proving Ground. They said supporting the labs is particularly important in light of the ongoing coronavirus emergency.
Federal efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus continue. The Defense Department said its prepared to receive two evacuation flights from China that are chartered by the State Department. The flights contain about 300 passengers and will arrive today in Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. (Department of Defense)
Defense Secretary Mark Esper plans to fulfill a request from the Department of Health and Human Services asking for more defense facilities that could house additional passengers who need to be quarantined, in case HHS facilities become filled. Esper laid out 11 additional locations near airports that could serve as tertiary backups. (Department of Defense)
The Pentagon says it needs to reorient its own spending in order to counter threats from China and Russia, and programs within the Defense agencies are first on the chopping block. The budget DoD will propose next week will include more than $7 billion in reductions and transfers from the dozens of agencies that sit outside the military services – sometimes called the “fourth estate.” Those are the results of the first round of reviews the Pentagon is conducting to reprioritize spending toward the National Defense Strategy. More top to bottom scrubs of those agencies, the military services and DoD’s global combatant commands are on the agenda for 2020. (Federal News Network)
The Space Force is getting help from some unlikely sources to decide what it should call its troops. Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of the Space Force, said the service called on the Air Force Academy’s language department, other areas in academia and future Space Force members to come up with names for the branch’s troops. Thompson said the Space Force has narrowed its search down to some good options, but has not decided on a name yet. He did rule out space cadets and spacemen. (Federal News Network)
Defense Secretary Mark Esper sends out a reminder to Defense employees to be careful about political activity. The memo tells public servants that they can exercise their right to vote and participate in government, but they must also avoid any actions that could imply endorsement of a political party or candidate. Esper reminds DoD personnel to complete annual ethics training by Nov. 30 of every calendar year.
The Office of Personnel Management has reminded agencies that federal employees can accept short-term jobs with the Census Bureau for the upcoming decennial count. In a memo to agency heads, OPM Director Dale Cabaniss clarified that temporary census work doesn’t conflict with a statute that prohibits agency employees from receiving pay from multiple federal positions. The Census Bureau expects to make as many as half-a-million temporary hires for the 2020 census.
A federal grand jury has indicted a former employee of the Walter Reed Medical Center. It accuses David Laufer of receiving money from a company in Germantown, Maryland, in exchange for government contracts when he was the head of the hospital’s Prosthetics and Orthotics Department, and also failing to report that money. (Department of Justice)
Members of the House Judiciary committee are concerned about protections for judicial branch employees after it was found a federal judge was sexually harassing female employees and even had an affair with an offender. The committee has requested members of the Judicial Council explain what it has done to ensure a safe workplace for employees who worked with and for U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia. It specifically wants to know why none of them felt comfortable filing a complaint again Murguia. (Associated Press)
This post has been updated to reflect the correct locations of Lackland Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.