Senate, House Democrats blast FEMA for unfilled positions

To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe in PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

  • A bicameral group of Democrats say top leadership vacancies at the Federal Emergency Management Agency are unacceptable. Two deputy FEMA administrator positions have been vacant for over six months. Lawmakers say they’re concerned FEMA will be ill-prepared to handle the ongoing pandemic and hurricane and wildfire season without confirmed permanent leadership. The chairmen of the House Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees are writing to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor with their worries. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) says he too shares their concerns.
  • The House has passed its version of the annual Defense authorization bill. The $732 billion Defense bill easily cleared the chamber on a bipartisan vote after lawmakers adopted more than 400 amendments over the last two days. The Senate is also working on its version of the bill this week. In both cases, the legislation carries numerous provisions not directly related to Defense spending, partly because the NDAA is one of the few pieces of legislation Congress reliably passes each year. The final bill will need to be reconciled in a conference committee. In recent years, that process has taken until December. President Trump has threatened to veto the final bill if it includes a House provision that would order the renaming of bases named for Confederate generals. (Federal News Network)
  • Civilian federal employees have a few things to like about the House-passed version of the annual defense authorization bill. One provision would allow federal employees working during the pandemic to carry over more unused annual leave than usual. Most federal employees can carry up to 30 days of unused annual leave each year. Another provision would codify the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program known as FedRAMP. The measure would also streamline the certification process and make it easier for companies certified with one agency to receive similar approval at another.
  • It’s becoming more likely you won’t be able to watch TikTok videos on your government device. An amendment adopted into the 2021 House defense authorization bill bans the app from government phones and other electronics. It also disallows any successor apps from the same company. The United States has had concerns about the video sharing application because of its ties with China. Officials fear the app might help China mine important information from government employees. (Federal News Network)
  • The Senate confirmed two new leaders in the National Guard. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson was voted in as the next chief of the National Guard Bureau. A change of command ceremony is planned for August. Hokanson takes over for Gen. Joseph Lengyl, who has headed the National Guard since 2016. Hokanson formerly served as the National Guard Bureau’s vice chief. The Senate also confirmed Lt. Gen. Michael Loh to head up the Air National Guard. Loh is currently the leader of the Colorado National Guard.
  • Good government and federal affinity groups say the Office of Personnel Management needs a good reorganization. It’s one of several recommendations from the Senior Executives Association and Center for Organizational Excellence. They say both the executive and legislative branches are ill-equipped to tackle several human capital management challenges that the federal workforce has been complaining about for years. They suggest a new name and mission statement for OPM, and they contemplate modernizing and moving federal retirement and health services out of OPM. (Federal News Network)
  • The IRS has stood up a new office to help digitize taxpayer services. Deputy Chief Procurement Officer Harrison Smith and Enterprise Case Management Director Justin Lewis Abold-LaBreche will serve as co-directors of the Digitalization and Case Management Office. The agency created the office to help oversee its modernization work under the Taxpayer First Act. The office will help digitize paper-based taxpayer services and consolidate legacy case management systems. The agency has more than 60 aging case management systems that for the most part can’t communicate with each other.
  • The Treasury Department and IRS took flack from Congress for sending a million coronavirus pandemic payments to dead people. But Treasury officials say the IRS has already recovered more than a billion dollars of those improper payments. Treasury’s fiscal assistant secretary Dave Lebryk says that makes up about 70% of the payments but he expects the IRS to find more returned checks as it digs out of its backlog of taxpayer correspondence. (Federal News Network)
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is apparently the object of an ongoing investigation stemming from a whistleblower complaint. The left-leaning American Oversight obtained, in a FOIA request, a mostly redacted State Department inspector general report. The report concerns a State Department employee who claims to have witnessed or know people who saw personal misconduct by Pompeo. So much of the report is blacked out it’s impossible to read exactly what Pompeo allegedly did, nor the identity of the whistleblower, who did not waive confidentiality.