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.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wants to make sure President Donald Trump doesn’t dispose of any vital presidential records on his way out the door. Maloney sent a letter to David Ferriero, head of the National Archives and Records Administration, to find out if the president is indeed cleaning house. She also wants to find out what steps NARA could take if he does.
The multi-trillion-dollar omnibus spending package will have a big impact on federal employees and next year’s paycheck. The bill endorses a 1% federal pay raise for civilian employees in 2021. It also gives federal employees and military members who are subject to the president’s payroll tax deferral more time to repay their debts next year. It gives employees up to 12 months to pay back the Social Security taxes that have been deferred from their paychecks this fall. Employees originally had just four months to repay deferred taxes. (Federal News Network)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress will be extended into Congress’ next session. The bipartisan committee is charged with creating recommendations to make congressional operations run smoother. So far the committee has passed 97 of those recommendations. They include streamlining and reorganizing House Human Resources, overhauling the onboarding process and providing continuing education for members, as well as modernizing and revitalizing House technology.
The Trump administration finds no love in its last attempt to get more funding for IT modernization. For the third year in a row, Congress isn’t buying the White House’s request nor Democrat lawmakers’ pleas for more money to help agencies move away from legacy systems more quickly. The fiscal 2021 omnibus spending bill that the House unveiled yesterday includes $25 million for the Technology Modernization Fund, $100 million below the request. The Office of Management and Budget received the same amount of funding in 2018 and 2019, both well below the request. Lawmakers also cut the IT Oversight and Reform fund managed by OMB by $2.5 million to $12 million. (Federal News Network)
Good government groups are calling on agencies to remind federal employees of their whistleblower rights during the presidential transition. They said it’s important agencies remind employees of their rights to report waste, fraud and abuse. Those rights are protected under law and supersede any agency non-disclosure policies. Public Citizen and the Government Accountability Project are among those leading the effort. The groups said they’re especially concerned the president’s recent Schedule F executive order may pressure federal employees against exercising their whistleblower rights.
The Office of Personnel Management at last has a new presidential transition guide. It describes how agencies should handle the departures and appointments of political appointees, career employees and members of the Senior Executive Service during this time. Acting OPM Director Michael Rigas said the public is depending on agencies to be transparent with their transition activities. And OPM stands ready to help. OPM is releasing its transition guide much later than usual. The agency released past guides before the presidential election.
The Defense Department takes another step towards creating a guide for contractors to protect classified information. DoD published a final rule in the Federal Register titled “National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual.” It establishes requirements for protecting classified information disclosed to or developed by contractors, licensees, grantees, or certificate holders. The rule takes effect Feb. 24 of next year, and gives contractors six months to comply.
New details show just how pervasive the use of other transaction agreements have become across the Defense Department. DoD increased the use of OTAs by 75% in fiscal 2019 alone, and 712% since 2015. The Center for Strategic and International Studies found in new research that DoD spent $7.2 billion on these non-FAR based acquisitions in 2019. The Army is the biggest user of OTAs and consortia account for the largest winners of these agreements.
It had to happen eventually: Another landmark retailer in the heart of Washington, D.C., closed its doors forever. Joining Woodward and Lothrop, the Hecht Company, and Raleigh’s, the Government Publishing Office’s bookstore at 710 North Capitol St. will close forever on Jan. 4. The store, from which the Capital Dome is visible, first moved there from H Street NW in 1940. But GPO said it’s been losing money, and closing it will save a half million dollars a year. GPO will continue to sell paper-and-ink books online.
Once again, the president is calling for federal buildings to look the same as they did in Washington and Jefferson’s time. President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday titled “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture.” It makes classical architecture the default building style for federal buildings in D.C., and discourages Brutalism, modernism and deconstructivist designs. It defines classical architecture as inspired by ancient Greco-Roman design elements, including “Neoclassical, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco.” It’s similar to Trump’s “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” draft executive order back in February, but this one also establishes a new President’s Council on Improving Federal Civic Architecture.
A limited supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will go to 113 Veterans Affairs facilities this week. VA said a total of 128 sites are equipped to handle both kinds of vaccine. Just 37 VA facilities were equipped to accept the Pfizer vaccine. VA said it will continue to vaccinate frontline healthcare professionals and veterans at its community living centers and spinal cord injury centers first. The goal is to inoculate all employees and veterans who want the vaccine.
The National Institutes of Health awarded over $107 million for non-traditional or new approaches to COVID testing and surveillance, using existing tools. The Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics initiative, or RADx, program launched in April to speed up innovation around COVID testing. The program emphasizes factors like biological virus markers, detection technology, new analytics platforms, and integrated artificial intelligence. Right now, RADx has 49 research projects and grant supplements nationwide, including what NIH calls a “shark tank”-type COVID-19 testing challenge, to develop technology for commercialization.