Space Force organizational structure takes shape

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  • The Space Force finalized its organizational structure to include three echelons of command. The new service will be divided into Space Operations Command, Space Systems Command and Space Training and Readiness Command. Under those major entities the Space Force will have structures called deltas, which are similar to Air Force wings or groups, and are run by colonels. The military branch is billing its structure as less bureaucratic than the Air Force, which has five major organizational commands.
  • It looks increasingly likely that the Defense Department’s chief management officer position is living on borrowed time. The Senate’s version of the annual Defense bill would eliminate the CMO within the next two years. An amendment incorporated into the House’s bill yesterday would do so even sooner. The House version would do away with the CMO a month after the NDAA is enacted. The secretary of Defense would be in charge of delegating the CMO’s current duties to other Pentagon officials. Congress created the position to reform DoD’s business operations. By law, it’s the third-highest-ranking job in the Pentagon, but it’s only been up and running in its current form for a little over two years. (Federal News Network)
  • Most agencies weren’t prepared for the last government shutdown that stretched for 35 days. The Government Accountability Office reviewed contingency plans from four agencies. Customs and Border Protection says it only focused on short-term operational needs during the last shutdown. The plan from the IRS changed over the course of the shutdown. None of the plans from the agencies that GAO reviewed described how their activities would change if the shutdown persisted beyond five days.
  • Top Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are again looking for more answers about the administration’s proposed Office of Personnel Management merger. Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) say they are concerned the administration misled Congress about the legal opinions it developed for the OPM merger with the General Services Administration. The chairmen want the acting OPM director and his senior adviser and the OPM general counsel to sit for written interviews to discuss the merger and its legality.
  • Most federal employees have good things to say about their health and retirement benefits. A new survey from the Office of Personnel Management finds federal health and retirement benefits are a valuable recruitment and retention tool for many employees. Having insurance under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program influenced 70% of respondents to take a government job, and 80% to keep their jobs. The Thrift Savings Plan and federal retirement annuity made a similar impact. Employees rated the TSP most highly out of all benefits programs. Survey respondents also say the TSP offers the most value.  (Federal News Network)
  • It’s been two years since Congress demanded more transparency from DoD on how many military members are deployed overseas. A provision in this year’s Defense bill is meant to serve as a reminder. The House version would cut part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s travel budget until the Pentagon publishes quarterly updates on the total number of deployed troops on a public website. Congress first ordered DoD to do so in the 2019 Defense bill.
  • The Air Force is seeing more pilots staying on past their expected retirement or separation dates. 222 pilots have been approved to stay in the service since the coronavirus began affecting the economy in March. Of those 222, 153 of the pilots are planning to stay past 2020. The Air Force is carefully monitoring the airline industry, which is prohibited by law from laying off or firing pilots until October 1. The service may see more pilots join the Air Force after that date. (Federal News Network)
  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office launched a way to speed up appeals when examiners turn down patent applications. The Fast Track Appeals Pilot Program lets petitioners pay $400 to get a quicker decision from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The board hears so-called ex parte appeals, when the examiner and the applicant reach a stalemate. Under fast track, the board will issue decisions within six months, versus the average of more than a year. Fast track appeals become available today.
  • A bicameral pair of lawmakers want to require agencies to study the costs of relocating their workforces before finalizing any big moves. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) and Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced the COST of Relocations Act. The bill requires agencies to conduct a cost benefit analysis and make it public. Members want agencies to study the cost of real estate, staffing and attrition. Wexton and Van Hollen say their bill would provide the transparency that was missing from recent Agriculture and Bureau of Land Management relocations.
  • The 2021 defense policy bill will be contending with a possible presidential veto if a House provision makes it into law. The House Armed Services Committee passed an amendment that creates a process to rename military bases and infrastructure honoring leaders of the confederacy within one year. President Donald Trump tweeted yesterday that he would veto legislation that could lead to base renaming. The amendment does not explicitly mandate the renaming of the bases, but rather calls for a study and recommends the Defense Department consider other designations for the installations.
  • Census Bureau workers will start knocking on doors later this month in a soft-launch of the agency’s non-response follow-up operations. Enumerators in mid-July will start interviewing the 56 million households that have yet to respond to the 2020 Census. This fieldwork will take place in half-a-dozen cities, including New Orleans, Boise, Idaho, and Kansas City, Missouri. The majority of this work will happen in mid-August and finish by the end of October. Households can still respond to the 2020 count online, over the phone or by mailing back a paper questionnaire.
  • The IRS is sitting on $1.5 billion dollars owed to taxpayers who didn’t file a tax return in 2016 and time is running out to claim that money. The agency estimates more than a million people eligible for a tax refund didn’t file a 2016 return, but have until July 15 to do so. The median unclaimed tax return is less than $900 dollars, but the IRS also urges lower-income households to apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Taxpayers don’t face any penalties for filing late if they receive a refund.