TSA inches closer to putting officers on general schedule despite veto threat

In today's Federal Newscast, members of Congress are taking different approaches to make sure agency telework policies remain unhindered.

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  • Officers at the Transportation Security Administration are a step closer to new collective bargaining rights, but it may be in vain. The House passed the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act. The bill would put TSOs on the General Schedule pay scale and expand their due process rights. The White House said it will veto the bill if it makes it to the president’s desk. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support. House members have introduced a similar version of this bill in the past. But it hasn’t gone far in the Senate.
  • Two members of Congress make a plea to the Social Security Administration to reverse recent telework changes. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) say the spread and concern over the coronavirus should prompt SSA to reinstate telework. They say recent telework changes remove an important tool SSA could use during a public crisis like the coronavirus outbreak. A wide variety of new telework schedules went into effect for employees this week.
  • Three House members want to stop further across-the-board cuts to agency telework programs. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) introduced a new bill to prevent agencies from making broad telework cuts. The Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act would also require agencies to set annual goals on participation. The Office of Personnel Management would have to set uniform guidance on measuring and reporting telework participation and performance.
  • Buyouts and early retirement offers are coming to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC said it will make offers to 20% of its workforce next week. Employees who accept them will get incentive payments worth up to six months of their salaries. The agency will also close, consolidate and relocate a handful of field offices. FDIC said both moves are an attempt to shed unnecessary management layers and address challenges with an aging workforce. Forty-two of the FDIC workforce is at or near retirement age.
  • Independent agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the National Labor Relations Board can set regulations without final approval from the White House. But more than 20 Republican senators have written to President Donald Trump asking to end that exemption. The senators urged the president to make independent agencies subject to regulatory review from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Meanwhile, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) has introduced a bill to clarify that agencies don’t have the authority to enforce guidance documents they release as law.
  • The government’s publishing head is pushing for a whole new approach to congressional documents. Government Publishing Office Director Hugh Halpern said that after 150 years, it’s time for bills and other documents to benefit from electronics. He told a House panel that by originating digitally, documents no longer should be confined to the small type and close line spacing needed to economize in the ink-on-paper era. Halpern said Congress should re-examine the look and feel of its documents so they’re easier to author, produce and consume, and that GPO has the technology required to do so.
  • Former Justice Department CIO Joe Klimavicz didn’t wait long to land a new job. He’s joined KPMG as a managing director. He will run the practice advising federal agencies on how to deal with such technology challenges as moving their operations to the cloud and fending off cyber attackers.
  • The IRS has named long-time criminal investigator Damon Rowe as the head of its new Fraud Enforcement Office. Starting in mid-March, Rowe will oversee the design, development and delivery of efforts to detect and deter fraud at the agency. In this role he’ll coordinate efforts between the IRS’ Criminal Investigations office and its revenue officers. Rowe will also work closely with the agency’s new promoter investigation coordinator to track down fraudulent advertisements for tax-help.
  • Matthew Donovan has been nominated as the Pentagon’s top personnel official. It’s welcome news for an office that’s gone through years of vacancies in its top ranks. But in the meantime, the nomination means Donovan will need to step aside. He had been leading the personnel and readiness office as its acting undersecretary. Federal law blocks him from staying in that job while the Senate considers his nomination. For now, he’s returned to his previous position – the undersecretary of the Air Force. In the meantime, Alexis Ross will lead the personnel and readiness office. She is a senior adviser to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
  • The Defense Department’s top doctor said coronavirus has not caused much of an issue for the military thus far. He attributes that to the age and fitness of service members. DoD said it is treating very small numbers of people for the virus, and they are getting the care they need based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. The military services are screening new recruits and taking their temperatures. DoD is also limiting base access in areas like northern Italy and South Korea.
  • Military installations could be powered by small nuclear reactors in the future. The Pentagon is working with companies to see if the reactors may be a way to provide power to bases if the domestic electric grid is compromised. The reactors would be about two megawatts and power critical loads on the bases. DoD acquisition chief Ellen Lord says the military has been in discussions with companies for about a year on the issue. Lord says the project is a good way to bridge the civil and military nuclear industries.
  • The Navy was hit with a legal challenge to one of the biggest IT contract awards in the federal government’s history. General Dynamics Information Technology is filing a bid protest, challenging last month’s $7.7 billion award for the Next Generation Enterprise Network contract. Leidos won that procurement, beating out GDIT and Perspecta. GDIT is the current contract holder for the Navy’s ONE-Net – the network that serves sailors and marines at overseas locations. The Navy wants to use the new contract to consolidate One-Net into its stateside network – the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.
  • The Pentagon is undertaking a long awaited study on progress payments. Progress payments are partial payments that cover the amount of work completed by a contractor up to the point of invoicing. The Defense Department has proposed reducing the default progress payment rate on defense contracts from 80% to 50%. DoD put off the report late last year because it was waiting for Congress to pass the 2020 defense budget to fund it. Kim Harrington, DoD’s acting pricing and contracting lead, is in charge of the study.
  • DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and the General Services Administration’s Centers of Excellence are working together to tackle data challenges around AI. JAIC stakeholders and CoE members recently participated in several rounds of human-centered design workshops meant to highlight the role of managing data assets for AI. The JAIC and the CoEs have worked together on a range AI use cases including cybersecurity, health care predictive maintenance, and business automation.
  • The fight over the goals of the data center consolidation initiative continues between the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Accountability Office. A new chapter emerged in the six-year-old disagreement between OMB and GAO over the governmentwide data center consolidation initiative. They are clashing over whether cybersecurity risks should be part of the way auditors measure agency progress. In the latest report to Congress, GAO said OMB’s decision to change the definition of data centers increases the cyber risk agencies face. This new debate overshadows real progress made by agencies in 2019. GAO found 23 of 24 agencies met, or planned to meet, the 2019 savings goal of $241.5 million and closure goal of 286 facilities.
  • After receiving 2.6 million job applications, the Census Bureau has begun to hire enumerators for the 2020 population count. The bureau will conduct phone interviews with applicants starting March 7. Most positions will begin work in early May to follow up with those who haven’t responded to the 2020 census questionnaire on their own. The bureau will also make job offers over the phone, and follow up with an email to prospective hires with instructions on how to get fingerprinted for background checks. Most positions will begin work in early May, to follow up with households that haven’t responded to the 2020 census questionnaire on their own.

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