Lawmakers have questions about removal of State Department IG

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  • Top Democrats on the House and Senate foreign relations committees launched a probe into the president’s firing of the State Department’s inspector general. Congressman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) tell the White House to preserve all records tied to the decision to fire agency watchdog Steve Linick. The lawmakers cite reports that Linick had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Secretary Mike Pompeo. Trump last Friday replaced Linick with Ambassador Stephen Akard, the director of the agency’s Office of Foreign Missions. (House Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • In an effort to reduce improper payments, the Social Security Advisory Board recommends shifting death data collection from SSA to the Treasury Department’s Do Not Pay portal. The board first made this recommendation last year, but doubled down on it after reports the IRS sent coronavirus stimulus payments to dead people. A bipartisan group of lawmakers last year introduced the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, which would give more federal agencies, including the IRS, access to the full set of SSA’s death records. (Federal News Network)
  • Technology innovation during the age of coronavirus is emerging across the government. The Education Department completely re-architected its Personal Identity Verification or PIV authentication, laptop issuance, and Virtual Private Network capacity over the last few months. It now can onboard employees seamlessly and transition the workforce with expiring PIVs to the alternate solution without the need for in-person contact. At HHS, officials created a system called HHS PROTECT. It pulls together more than 200 datasets to create a common operating picture of the spread, impact and behavior of the virus. These are just two examples Federal CIO Suzette Kent highlighted in a recent blog post about how agencies are adapting during the pandemic.
  • The Thrift Savings Plan has more details out on loan and withdrawal relief options that participants can take during the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act allows TSP participants to withdraw up to $100,000 from their TSP accounts. They’ll have to prove a coronavirus diagnosis or an adverse impact from the pandemic in applying though. New loan options will be available no later than June 22. A new withdrawal option is coming soon too for TSP participants. But it may not be available until mid-July. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department Inspector General’s Office is setting up a handful of investigations into the Pentagon’s response to COVID-19. The Pentagon’s watchdog is planning 10 new reports related to the military response to COVID-19. The investigations range from auditing screening and quarantine procedures to the impact of coronavirus on basic training. The work will also oversee how DoD spends the more than $10.5 billion afforded to it through the coronavirus relief package. DoD IG was given $20 million in that appropriation for oversight. DoD IG is already looking into six coronavirus related issues including contracts for equipment and supplies in support of relief and an evaluation of the Navy’s plans and response to the virus’ outbreak aboard ships. (Department of Defense)
  • Several Defense officials will play a major role in the Trump administration’s “new initiative to find a coronavirus vaccine. The leadership roster for Operation Warp Speed includes more officials from DoD than from the Department of Health and Human Services. Gen. Gus Perna, the commander of Army Materiel Command will serve as chief operating officer. DoD’s contingent also includes Major General Lee Payne and Sean Biggerstaff from the Defense Health Agency; Stacy Cummings, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Enablers; and Matt Hepburn and Andrew Kilianski, two officials from DoD’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense. (Department of Health and Human Services)
  • Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell continues to remake the intelligence community. Grenell announced Friday that the National Counterterrorism Center would implement efficiency and effectiveness reforms recommended by career intelligence officials. These include giving more responsibility to the Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning and building a surge-capable workforce to ensure NCTC can address the increasingly diverse terrorist threat picture. Grenell also announced reorganization changes the week before to the ODNI’s oversight of cybersecurity and military affairs.
  • The Air Force is revising how it will find a home for the Space Force headquarters. The new approach takes into account the Space Force’s emerging organizational structure and the limited number of highly specialized personnel and infrastructure required to support the military service and U.S. Space Command. The new criteria will increase the number of locations eligible to serve as the headquarters. For now, Colorado Springs, Colorado remains the provisional headquarters of the Space Force until the new headquarters are ready in about six years.
  • Land management agencies could soon get some hiring help. Temporary land management employees may have an easier time getting a full time job at their former agencies. The Office of Personnel Management says certain temporary and former employees at the Forest Service, National Park Service and others will be allowed to compete for a permanent position at land management agencies. Draft regulations describe how temporary and former employees can apply for these jobs within two years of leaving the agency, if that same agency is taking applications internally. Former and temporary employees can apply for positions at any agency under certain circumstances. The regulations implement provisions in a 2017 defense authorization bill. (Federal Register)
  • Two federal departments are taking credit for a major Taiwanese investment in the United States. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company said it will build a $12 billion, plan in Arizona. The company makes custom chips for large corporations including Apple and Huawei. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross credits assistant secretary Ian Steff for his part in the negotiations. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named economic team leader, under secretary Keith Krach. The company says it will eventually employee 1,600 high tech professionals and process 20,000 wafers per month.