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President Donald Trump fired a slew of defense advisers and replaced them with some well-known conservatives. Nine members of the Defense Business Board were told their services will not be needed next year. The board provides independent business management advice to the Pentagon. Trump’s acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller installed former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Citizens United Chairman David Bossie in two of the vacant positions on the board. Miller dismissed the board’s chairman Michael Bayer and former general Arnold Punaro.
More agencies are creating innovation offices to train contracting officers and reduce procurement complexities. The Department of Homeland Security has its Procurement Innovation Lab, the Agriculture Department has its Procurement Innovation Effort, and now the Commerce Department is creating its own version. Over the next year, Commerce plans on creating the council with the department’s bureaus to promote awareness, develop artifacts, governance and a strategic plan. It also will implement a portal for Commerce-wide innovation, which will act as a repository of documents and concepts with a goal of injecting innovation into the acquisition process wherever possible.
The Pentagon’s top industrial base official got a promotion in this year’s Defense bill. The House-Senate agreement would create a new assistant secretary of Defense for industrial base policy. DoD already has a lower-level office in charge of managing the industrial sector, but lawmakers say at least two recent events showed it did not have enough staff or stature for its actual responsibilities. One was the COVID-19 pandemic, which required DoD to play a major role in managing the supply base for protective equipment and other supplies. Another was the increased focus in recent years on countering dwindling domestic suppliers for a wide variety of military needs.
The recently passed 2021 National Defense Authorization Act includes 50 provisions focused on cybersecurity for the Defense Department and other agencies. Among the provisions is one giving the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director more defined authorities. Another one requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology to identify and develop standards and guidelines for improving the federal cybersecurity workforce. A third provision gives CISA more authority to conduct threat hunting on federal networks. (Federal News Network)
The Air Force is considering giving career and life coaching to airmen who will end up in leadership positions. The service’s personnel leader says the Air Force conducted a pilot program with 30 airmen by giving them advice from industry professionals and academics. The Air Force is studying the feedback from the program, which early reviews deem as positive. The service hopes to extend coaching to 10,000 to 15,000 potential leaders. (Federal News Network)
Congress agrees that federal employees should be allowed to carry over more unused vacation time into next year. A final agreement for the 2021 NDAA includes some good news for federal employees, who have been too busy to take vacation time this year. The bill allows federal employees to carry over an extra 25% of their annual leave into next year, but don’t rearrange those end-of-year vacation plans yet. Both the House and Senate must pass the bill and the president must sign it, although he’s threatened a veto. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Veterans Affairs has a new No. 2 leader at the Office of Accountability of Whistleblower Protection. Dan Sitterly served for two years as VA’s top human resources appointee. He started a new job as the top career executive at VA’s accountability office last week. Senate Democrats said the appointment raised initial concerns about burrowing. But Sitterly was a career member of the Senior Executive Service before becoming a political appointee. The law allows him to be reinstated as a career SES. But senators said they’re still concerned Sitterly may oversee personnel investigations of his former colleagues. (Federal News Network)
The IRS is shutting down its inbox for congressional inquiries for pandemic stimulus payments. The IRS stopped accepting new inquires about Economic Impact Payments on Nov. 30 and will stop working on pending inquires by Dec. 10. Top Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are telling to the agency to reconsider and keep the inbox open through the end of the upcoming filing season. Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said keeping the inbox open will reduce the burden on the IRS at the start of next year’s filing season.
House Democrats made a few notable changes with their committee leadership for the next Congress. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) remains the chair of the Oversight and Reform Committee while Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) picked up a second term as the leader of the Veterans Affairs Committee. And Rep. Congressmen Adam Smith (D-Wash.) will chair the Armed Services Committee again. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) will replace Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) as the chair of the Appropriations Committee as Lowey is retiring at the end of the year.
The Agriculture Department is wrapping up a data skills assessment, which will show where USDA stands in increasing its data science workforce, but also where all of its 100,000 employees stand in terms of data literacy. The agency is also out with a data strategy, with goals through 2023. The strategy is focused on data governance and leadership, building a data analytics platform, and creating a common data platform. (Federal News Network)