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Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is putting a hold on two Trump administration nominations until the White House sheds more light on the recent firing of two inspectors general. The hold affects President Donald Trump’s nominees to serve as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and the State Department’s undersecretary for arms control and international security. Grassley says he won’t release the hold until the White House explains why the president fired State IG Steve Linick and intelligence community IG Michael Atkinson.
The Senate confirmed Victor Mercado as Defense Department assistant secretary for strategy plans and capabilities, and James Anderson as the deputy undersecretary for defense policy. Mercado is a former Navy rear admiral. Anderson has been acting as undersecretary of policy since February. The Pentagon still has 17 vacant positions that are Senate-confirmable. Thirteen of those positions do not have a nominee from the White House.
Communication and coordination between contracting personnel and contractors, keeping FEMA in the loop and following proper procedures for closing out contracts are all best practices the Defense Department Inspector General flagged for contracting during a pandemic. The DoD IG looked back at 36 disaster relief audit reports over the past 14 years to identify the best ways to minimize fraud, waste and abuse in the coronavirus environment. The lessons learned related to communication, coordination, documentation, consistency, staffing and training.
Senate Small Business Committee leaders want even more information from the Small Business Administration. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) wrote to the agency asking them to report more data, more often about the Paycheck Protection Program. The lawmakers say SBA has been helpful so far, but more transparency is needed for the public about how many loans the agency has approved, how many lenders and many other data points.
The Department of Veterans Affairs tried to reassure Congress, it is prepared for the possibility of a pandemic and a major hurricane. VA serves as the backstop to the American health care system during pandemics like the current one. But it also plays a role in the government’s natural disaster response. VA says it updated its disaster response to account for the possibility of both. Recent hiring surges will help VA stay prepared for a major storm during a pandemic. It’s also stockpiling five-to-six months of personal protective and other safety equipment.
The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt is back at sea – and with a full crew. The Roosevelt departed the pier in Guam yesterday to get back to its regular assigned missions. It had been sidelined for more than two months after a coronavirus outbreak forced it to offload most of the crew. The same incident led to the dismissal of the ship’s commanding officer, and later, the acting secretary of the Navy. Navy officials say they’ve reembarked all of the Roosevelt’s mission-capable sailors, who will now be working under extra social distancing protocols – to the extent that’s possible aboard an aircraft carrier.
Field and asylum offices at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are open to the public. USCIS says these offices have started non-emergency in-person services. Visitors to the offices must wear face coverings or masks inside agency facilities. USCIS says it’ll provide hand sanitizer but it’s encouraging visitors to bring their own pens. Application support centers will open at a later date.
If you want to play tourist in your own town, you might want to postpone. Although many agencies are starting to reopen their buildings, a Smithsonian spokesman says there’s no opening date yet for museums. Officials are following federal and local guidelines for museums located outside of Washington, D.C. The spokesman says museums will open in phases, and not all at once. They’ll limit capacity, cut the number of entrances, add staff to help keep people apart and clean throughout the day, and install place hand sanitizing stations.
The IRS is bringing another wave of employees back to work later this month. The agency will require some employees to return to the office June 15 in Georgia, Missouri, Michigan and Tennessee. The same goes for employees in Indiana, Ohio, California, Puerto Rico and Oregon on June 29. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said the employees will return to work at processing and call centers. Affected employees will hear from their supervisors as early as next week. (Federal News Network)
Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) is asking the Treasury Department’s chief financial officer and chief information officer for an update on their IT modernization strategy. The agency is on track to spend nearly $5 billion this fiscal year on its IT budget, some of it on a 50-year old legacy system at the IRS that helps process tax returns. Hassan asks Treasury’s CIO and CFO how they’ll work together to modernize legacy IT at the agency, and for an overview of the agency’s top five IT modernization goals.
Ten agencies are on the spot to answer questions about how they are modernizing their technology systems. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) is pressing chief information officers from DHS, Treasury, DoD, Interior, Education, HHS, OPM, SBA, SSA and Transportation on their IT modernization plans. The New Hampshire Democrat sent letters to each of these agencies asking six questions about their strategies for moving away from legacy technology systems. The letters come a few days after she questioned Russ Vought, the candidate to be the director of OMB, at his nomination hearing. Hassan wants answers from the agencies by August 3.
Congress is making a bicameral push to modernize the Plum Book. A list of all political appointees today is only updated and published once every four years. But a new bill would require the Office of Personnel Management to post and maintain a public website with names, titles, agencies, geographic locations and other information about senior government officials. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Congressmen Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and John Sarbanes (D-Md.) introduced the Periodically Listing Updates to Management, or PLUM Act. Delaware Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced the Senate companion.