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The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Reform Committee says Customs and Border Protection has yet to satisfy her document requests. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) says she’s still looking for the names of the CBP employees who engaged in misconduct and participated in certain Facebook groups last year. She says Congress should know the names of the employees and the outcomes of the agency’s disciplinary actions. Maloney subpoenaed CBP last fall for documents associated with the employee misconduct.
The Small Business Administration is gearing up for round two of its Paycheck Protection Program, but its inspector general says $3.6 billion in PPP loans went to potentially ineligible recipients. The IG partnered with the Treasury Department’s Do Not Pay Business Center, which identified these loans as high-risk transactions. SBA told the IG’s office it has flagged other pending loans highlighted by Treasury, and will review those cases before issuing the payments.
Just days before the end of the Trump administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published a controversial final rule. After a three-to-two vote, the commission committed to stopping illegal employment practices with more emphasis on what the rule calls informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion. Fewer than half of discrimination charges the EEOC handles get resolved that way. The commission says that with the new final rule, it will increase the effectiveness of voluntary resolution practices, citing a Congressional mandate from the 1970’s, when conciliation rules were first established. (Federal News Network)
President-Elect Joe Biden’s pick for defense secretary will need to distance himself from several defense contractors if he wants the job. Defense Secretary nominee General Lloyd Austin could have to divest up to $1.7 million in stock assets from Raytheon if he’s confirmed for the position. Austin has been on the board of Raytheon since 2016. Good government groups have been concerned about the number of defense officials with corporate ties in the Pentagon lately. Austin’s confirmation hearing is set for next week. Congress will need to pass a waiver for him since the law prohibits someone who has been in the military in the past seven years from serving as defense secretary. Congress also passed a waiver for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (Office of Government Ethics)
The Food and Drug Administration approved an Army-developed rapid blood test for traumatic brain injuries. The test identifies two brain-specific protein markers that appear in the blood following a brain injury. Over the past ten years, more than 400,000 service members suffered from brain injuries due to combat injuries, training accidents and other incidents. The Army says the test will help treat service members faster and possibly prevent further injury.
The Navy imposed new rules for sailors and families deploying outside the United States. The new directive requires anyone travelling on official orders to have a negative COVID test within 72 hours before they board a plane overseas. The Navy says it’s meant to reduce the spread of the pandemic – and more to the point – many countries will no longer allow U.S. personnel to enter their borders unless they’ve tested negative. DoD has set up two new testing sites specifically to serve military personnel near its international gateway airports: one at Walter Reed Medical Center near Washington; another at Madigan Army Medical Center near Seattle.
Parts of the federal government’s security clearance process are slowly entering the digital age. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency says it accelerated an effort during the pandemic to eliminate paper from the case review and case closure process. It’s part of the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to modernize the security clearance and vetting process. The inventory of pending security clearances sits at about 213,000. DCSA is handling the vast majority of top-secret cases within 80 days. (Performance.gov)
The Department of Health and Human Services becoma the fourth agency to receive approval to call themselves a Quality Service Management Office, or QSMO. The Office of Management and Budget named HHS as the governmentwide lead for grants management. The designation as the Grants QSMO means HHS will drive standardization and modernization of systems to increase efficiency and reduce burden for grant applicants, recipients and for the federal workforce. HHS joins DHS, Treasury and GSA as the other QSMOs, which OMB named last year.
Seven agencies will soon be looking for new chief information officers. The incoming Biden administration means that seven politically appointed chief information officers have to say good-bye to their agency. The departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Housing and Urban Development, State, Transportation and Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration all have politically appointed CIOs who will resign starting on Friday. Additionally, Basil Parker, the federal CIO, and Camilo Sandoval, the federal chief information security officer, also will be exiting after a short tenure. (Federal News Network)
Ten agencies are putting out a governmentwide call to hire data scientists. The Census Bureau, the State Department and the Transportation Department are just a few of the agencies looking to hire data-centric talent at the GS-13 and 14 levels. Candidates will go through a Subject Matter Expert Qualification Assessment, in which data-science experts already in government will interview them about their skills. The U.S. Digital Service used the same process in recent years to hire customer experience experts.