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High-ranking politicians and defense experts are criticizing President Trump’s decision to dismiss the defense secretary in the waning days of the administration. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper is destabilizing and emboldens American adversaries. Smith said times of presidential transition leave the country vulnerable and the Pentagon needs stable leadership. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the termination serves no purpose. Mark Cancian, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called the move pure vindictiveness. He added that it will hurt the Trump administration’s ability to protect the nation. Christopher Miller is now serving as acting defense secretary.
The Navy and Marine Corps are putting a temporary pause on all diversity and inclusion training. The directive from Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite follows President Trump’s executive order banning federal agencies from teaching “divisive concepts.” In order to restart the training, material designed for civilians will need approval from the Office of Personnel Management and senior Navy officials. But training targeted toward military members will only need the approval of the assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs. The Navy says it is still developing guidance for how the executive order will affect its contractors.
Six former Homeland Security secretaries are urging House and Senate leadership to take action now to consolidate committee jurisdiction over DHS. Their argument isn’t new. They say DHS should have one authorizing committee in each chamber. But former DHS secretaries want Congress to take action now before the 117th Congress convenes in early January. More than 90 different committees and subcommittees have jurisdiction over DHS today. They say the current patchwork of congressional committees slows DHS from making operational changes necessary to respond to today’s threats.
Between now and February, the Government Accountability Office will offer analysis of two hot topics in federal procurement and release its bi-annual update on all the challenges across government. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said auditors are working on two major acquisition reports. One is focused on the Defense Department’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification effort. The other will review the governmentwide ban on Chinese telecommunications products from companies like ZTE and Huawei. Speaking at PSC’s Vision 2020 conference yesterday, Dodaro said GAO will also release the high-risk list for the new Congress and administration to consider.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is calling the initial go-live of its new electronic health record a success. VA deployed the new Cerner platform to its medical center in Spokane, Washington two weeks ago. About 100 employees at one of VA’s patient billing centers in Las Vegas are also using the platform. VA staff used the new EHR to make 23,000 orders for medication, new admissions and other tests within the first five days. Trouble tickets from VA employees using the new system were in the single digits. (Federal News Network)
Military service members and their families can access resources easier with a new app from the Defense Department. The “My Military OneSource” app takes DoD’s online portal to mobile systems. Users can look up anything from childcare options to tax services to moving and housing resources. The app design is based off interviews with more than 300 service members and spouses. Military OneSource offers services to about 5.2 million people.
An academic group, using a grant from the National Science Foundation, will explore how the government can disrupt the supply chains supporting underground markets. Georgia State University received the quarter-million-dollar grant. It’ll put together a team of researchers in criminology, political science and economics, plus police and finance experts. They’ll examine the suppliers to illicit and virtual credit cards, fake identities, counterfeit currency and fraudulent documents. The idea is to help law enforcement and policy makers come up with ways to stop and dismantle them.
The administration made minor, but significant changes to the annual cybersecurity guidance. Agencies must certify that their cyber dashboards under the continuous diagnostics and mitigation program use the new data standards developed by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. In its annual FISMA guidance, the Office of Management and Budget gave agencies until the end of fiscal 2021 to ensure their CDM dashboards can exchange data with the federal dashboard using the requirements in the new CDM Program Data Quality Management Plan. If an agency can’t meet the deadline, it must submit to OMB and CISA a written justification as to why .
The Postal Service sees cost-cutting in its future, but timing remains an issue. The upcoming holiday season is the busiest time of year for USPS. That’s why its inspector general recommends waiting until 2021 to roll out a plan to cut costs equivalent to 64 million workhours. The Postal Service tried to implement some changes this summer, like cutting late and extra trips, but federal judges blocked those changes leading up to Election Day. USPS management told the IG it is not practical to prevent the agency from taking any cost-cutting measures for the rest of the year.
The National Treasury Employees Union is calling on the Trump administration to immediately stop implementation of the president’s Schedule F executive order. NTEU says a lame-duck administration shouldn’t waste time or resources on the EO when it anticipates President-Elect Joe Biden will repeal it. The Office of Personnel Management put agencies on deadline just before Inauguration Day to list what positions they would like to reclassify to the new schedule. NTEU sued the administration over the executive order. The lawsuit is still pending in federal district court.