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Top Democrats on the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees warn the Trump administration not to fast-track agency regulations that are pending between now and Inauguration Day. Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) are asking the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to tell agencies not to rush finalizing rules before President Donald Trump leaves office. An audit from the Government Accountability Office found 25% of major regulations finalized around the last three presidential transitions didn’t meet the procedural requirements of the Congressional Review Act.
The Defense Department has a new person in charge of pricing and contract selection. James Tenaglia will take over the crucial role in the Pentagon’s acquisition department. Kim Harrington was previously holding the position in an acting role. Harrington is now the director of the industrial base acquisition portfolio. Tenaglia took over the job on November 9. He will be in charge of the more than $300 billion in contracts obligations afforded by DoD each year.
The second highest-ranking officer in the military will only be serving two years in his position. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten will retire next year instead of deciding to hold out hope for a second term. That term would last four years under new rules. Hyten had a tumultuous Senate confirmation hearing due to allegations that he sexually assaulted a subordinate. He was eventually confirmed by a vote of 75-22. His term will end in November 2021. Before service as vice chief, Hyten lead U.S. Strategic Command where he oversaw the United States’ nuclear arsenal.
The Pentagon’s latest financial statement shows independent auditors are still finding financial management problems faster than DoD can fix them. It’s the third year DoD has subjected itself to an audit. Accountants reissued more than 2,500 findings from prior years, and notified the department of 800 new ones. In a way, it’s progress: at this time a year ago, auditors had raised 1,300 new problems, but the older, harder-to-resolve ones are still piling up. And the number of major, cross-cutting issues known as “material weaknesses” continues to grow: there are 26 this year, compared to 25 last year and 20 in 2018.
The Justice Department is expanding its Procurement Collusion Strike Force. DOJ says it has added 11 new national partners, including nine U.S. attorney offices. There now are 29 agencies and offices helping to combat collusion, antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes focused on government procurement, grant and program funding. The task force also added the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, which join other agencies including the IGs from GSA, DoD and the Postal Service.
Some progress on the Trump administration’s recent federal hiring executive order. The Office of Personnel Management is out with a new draft qualifications policy. It defines how agencies should use skills-based assessments to vet candidates for certain federal jobs. And it requires agencies to list the specific skills they’re looking for in their position descriptions. It’s all part of OPM’s efforts to eliminate educational requirements from certain federal jobs, unless they’re legally necessary. The final policy should be out by the end of the year.
The Thrift Savings Plan hired Accenture Federal Services as the lead contractor for its major recordkeeping services acquisition. The contract is supposed to modernize TSP’s call centers and IT infrastructure and improve its cybersecurity posture. It will also bring some new services to TSP participants. Those include a mutual fund window, electronic signature capabilities and new mobile app. The TSP says most changes should be in place by mid 2022. (Federal News Network)
The Government Accountability Office says for every dollar it receives from Congress, it returns $114 back to the government. In its fiscal 2020 performance and accountability report, GAO says its work produced more than $77 billion in savings or cost avoidance. Last year, GAO’s budget was $656 million. The agency points to its impact on government operations in the more than 14,000 recommendations that led to cost savings and more than 1,300 other improvements around operations or efficiencies.
Over 130 Secret Service agents are being forced to quarantine after contracting or being exposed to coronavirus. This all is stemming from the President’s busy campaign travel. The Washington Post reports, about 10%—approximately 300 workers—of the agency’s core security team has been affected by the virus since March. In a statement, the Secret Service said that “the health and safety of our workforce is paramount.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is recruiting volunteers for COVID-19 trials at some of its medical centers. VA is looking for veterans and non-veterans. Volunteers will participate in trials for a new COVID-19 vaccine. Candidates include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen. VA is also running trials for certain COVID-19 treatments. Over 50 VA medical centers are participating in the department’s trial program. Volunteers will go through a consent process to ensure they understand the risks of participating.
The Postal Service is looking to raise prices on some of its shipping services. After USPS wraps up this upcoming holiday season, the agency is looking to increase prices on shipping services by about 3.5% in the new year. The USPS Board of Governors says the new rates will keep the Postal Service competitive while providing the agency with much-needed revenue. The agency is also looking to impose a $100 surcharge for shipping parcels that exceed its maximum size limit. The Postal Regulatory Commission will review the prices before they would take effect on January 24.