Defense Department assures Congress, no more money moved to pay for border wall

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  • The Defense Department is telling Congress it doesn’t expect to divert any more funding from military programs to pay for the president’s border wall. Deputy Secretary David Norquist said it’s unlikely DoD will be asked to do another round of reprogramming in 2021. The Trump Administration angered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle earlier this year when it moved more than $7 billion in funding from weapons systems to fund wall construction. (House Budget Committee)
  • Another agency is examining its telework capacity in light of the coronavirus. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will conduct a large-scale test of its telework capabilities Thursday. Telework-eligible employees at NOAA’s Silver Spring and Germantown offices in Maryland should work from home for the day. The test also applies to employees at NOAA’s building in downtown Washington. Employees should bring home the equipment and materials they need to work remotely Thursday and every day after. NOAA said it will collect data from the exercise. The goal is to ensure employees can continue their work in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak at the agency. (Federal News Network)
  • Many employees are preparing to telework if a coronavirus outbreak forces their agency to close. But telework isn’t an option for the classified federal workforce. Most of those with security clearances can’t take classified work home with them. The Intelligence and National Security Alliance said that might idle the classified workforce if secure federal facilities close for a coronavirus outbreak. INSA said Congress should promise to pay these employees and contractors who can’t work during a big outbreak. (Federal News Network)
  • The military’s top doctor said coronavirus cases in the military will likely rise. Defense Department labs have tested 143 people for coronavirus so far. Three service members, four dependents, one civil servant and a contractor have tested positive for the disease. The military’s top doctor said DoD still does not know much about how coronavirus infects people. The Air Force is taking new measures to prevent the spread of the disease. The service is suspending families from attending basic training graduations and canceling some public events. (Federal News Network)
  • Grantees receive some coronavirus guidance while contractors continue to wait. The Office of Management and Budget is relieving some regulatory requirements for agencies awarding grant money for research on the coronavirus. Margaret Weichert, the deputy director for management at OMB, detailed 10 flexibilities to any grantees who receives money to support research and services to carry out the emergency response related to COVID-19. Among the flexibilities agencies receive is no longer having the requirement to put out a notice of funding opportunities for 30 days. Meanwhile, contractors are receiving piecemeal guidance from individual agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is attempting to reassure federal employee unions about its plans for the new paid parental leave program. OPM Director Dale Cabaniss said the agency is working to implement the new law and benefits will be ready by the Oct. 1 deadline. The National Treasury Employees Union had raised doubts about OPM’s implementation plans for the new paid parental leave program. OPM said it’s simply trying to clarify confusing language in the law. (Federal News Network)
  • An interagency group kicks off a new national strategy to manage and improve federal buildings. The Federal Real Property Council, the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget are meeting with government and industry experts to address long-standing challenges. These include improving capital planning, standardizing business processes and data, modernizing IT to include expansion of shared services, and continued emphasis on disposal of excess property. The average age of a federal building is 47 years old and there is a maintenance backlog of $200 billion. (White House)
  • OMB is looking for boost in funding next year. Acting OMB Director Russell Vought said staffing is down at the agency since 2010, and the office’s responsibilities continue to grow. The agency wants a 9% budget bump next year. The extra funding would allow OMB to hire 44 more employees in 2021, to bring the agency’s total workforce to 521 people. (House Appropriations Committee)
  • The Navy plans to apply gray matter to the new gray hulls it has under construction. A new task force will study, and reimagine, the future of the air craft carrier and naval aviation. Acting Navy Secretary Tom Modly said that with four new carriers under contract, the Navy needs clear-eyed assessments and hard choices about the nation’s long term challenges. Modly has yet to choose a task force director, but the work will pull in uniformed and civilian members of the Navy and Marine Corps. (Navy)
  • There will be an Air Force Pitch Day for small businesses in June to hear ideas about new weapons and improvements to current ones. Pitch Days allow businesses to share products and technologies with the service and come away with a contract the same day. Selected presenters will be awarded initial $50,000 contracts with the possibility of $1 million for initial research. The Pitch Day will be near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The Air Force is looking for systems related to digital engineering and low cost weapons that can overwhelm enemies.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking action against five universities accused of misleading marketing. VA said it plans to suspend new GI Bill enrollments at the five schools 60 days from now. Administrators have until then to take corrective action. The schools listed were University of Phoenix, Colorado Technical University, American InterContinental University, Bellevue University and Temple University. VA officials said they took the actions based on findings from various state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission. (Federal News Network)
  • Thirty recommendations to modernize and improve Congress made it through the first hurdle. The House passed the Moving our Democracy and Congressional Operations Towards Modernization Resolution yesterday. Among the things the bipartisan bill would do is create a centralized human resources system, require annual cybersecurity training for members and staff and provide technology to improve citizen engagement. This is the the first time in recent history that a select committee has turned recommendations into legislative action.

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