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Nearly 22,000 service members have now been diagnosed with coronavirus after this week saw a more than 20% jump in infections. Cases in the military are outpacing the civilian numbers. The Defense Department is still continuing to ease travel restrictions on some U.S. bases despite the numbers. Military installations in hard hit California and Florida remain on the no-go list for non-essential travel.
President Donald Trump will nominate John Gibbs as his new director of the Office of Personnel Management. Gibbs has been a political appointee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He’s currently the acting assistant secretary for community planning and development. Gibbs previously worked with nonprofit organizations and was a software developer in Silicon Valley. He doesn’t appear to have much direct federal personnel experience. Gibbs is the fourth person Trump has tapped to lead OPM in his administration. He’ll be the third permanent OPM director in as many years if confirmed. (Federal News Network)
The Office of Management and Budget at last has a new permanent director. The Senate confirmed Russell Vought as OMB director along party lines with a 51 to 45 vote. Vought has been OMB’s acting director since January 2019. He previously served as OMB’s deputy director under Mick Mulvaney.
Up to 40% of contract spending happens in the fourth quarter of every fiscal year, and even more money is going out the door because of the coronavirus. That’s why OMB is giving agencies guidance on how to make the most of their contracting dollars. OMB said category management has helped agencies save $27 billion since 2016, and made it easier to buy IT hardware, security, and consulting services. OMB also urged agencies to provide payment to vendors within 15 days of receiving an invoice and all required documentation.
Significant changes to Postal Service operations have drawn more scrutiny from Capitol Hill. Top Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee asked Postmaster General Louis DeJoy whether delays in mail delivery could impact mail-in ballots in November. The Postal Service recently circulated memos outlining plans to cut transportation and overtime costs. Lawmakers also ask what role the USPS Board of Governors had in crafting the memo, and whether the agency asked the Postal Regulatory Commission for an advisory opinion on its cost-cutting strategy. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) wrote a similar letter to DeJoy last week.
Federal locality pay may get a closer look from the Government Accountability Office. The House version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act asks GAO to review the process for administering locality pay, setting new locality pay areas and the time it takes to implement them all. The request comes as the Office of Personnel Management and Federal Salary Council are examining how proposed statistical changes might impact locality pay areas.
The House 2021 NDAA will also include an amendment to create a national cyber director within the executive office of the president. The role is Senate confirmed and will serve as the principal advisor to the president on cybersecurity strategy and policy. The cyber director will continuously assess and make recommendations to the president on allocating cyber resources and interagency planning. The role will have two deputy directors, one for strategy, capability and budget and another for plans and operations. (Federal News Network)
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency may be about to get more authority to ferret out cyber vulnerabilities on federal IT networks. A provision the House adopted as part of the annual Defense bill yesterday would explicitly authorize CISA to hunt for cyber threats on any federal agency’s network, with or without advance notice. The amendment would require DHS to issue a binding operational directive to implement the new authority within a year after the bill’s passage.
This year’s Defense authorization bill aims to advance the cause of government transparency. The House voted yesterday to incorporate the Taxpayer’s Right to Know Act into its version of the bill. The legislation would require OMB to build a comprehensive database of all federal programs and how much they cost, theoretically making it easier to find instances of wasteful and duplicative spending. The House has already passed similar legislation four times, but incorporating it into the must-pass Defense bill may boost its chances of becoming law.
The two largest federal employee unions are endorsing Joe Biden for president. The National Treasury Employees Union and the American Federation of Government Employees announced their endorsements within hours of each other. NTEU National President Tony Reardon said Biden told him personally he’d rescind the Trump administration’s 2018 executive orders on collective bargaining, official time and employee removals. Online polls of AFGE members show 58% support Biden and 28% support Trump. Both unions said their national and local leadership reviewed both candidates’ views on federal pay, benefits, and other topics. (Federal News Network)