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President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring senior political appointees to sign off on new federal regulations. The executive order gives agency heads 90 days to review all significant rules made over the last 12 years, and determine whether those rules were issued by senior appointees. Agencies will then submit those findings in a report to the president. Trump says the executive order seeks to clarify a blurred line at some agencies, where career officials have acted as the final word on regulations.
Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said he’ll resign Wednesday, cutting his term short by about a year. Deputy Director Ron Jarmin will serve as acting director. Top Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee asked Dillingham to resign last week, after an inspector general report claimed he and other political appointees pressured employees to create a report on the number of people living in the U.S. illegally. The bureau is still processing 2020 census apportionment data, which was due December 31. (Federal News Network)
Political appointees who resign tomorrow at noon are still entitled to pay and many of their benefits. The Office of Personnel Management has a few reminders for agencies who are processing Inauguration Day resignations. Employees who resign but work half of Inauguration Day are entitled to their usual compensation, plus holiday pay if they’re in Washington, D.C. metro area. Appointees are also eligible for a full day’s worth of retirement credit. Their federal health insurance will continue through the end of the most recent pay period. But they can also ask for a free 31-day extension.
President-Elect Joe Biden is likely to end restrictions on transgender people in the military as one of his first steps. The Biden administration is expected to repeal Trump era restrictions put on transgender people in the military on day one. President Trump announced a ban on transgender people in the service in 2017, overturning former President Obama’s inclusivity policy. A recent memo from the Palm Center says the Defense Department can easily return to a policy of including transgender people by repealing a handful of guidances as well as a handbook on the Trump policy. Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center says DoD left all the necessary breadcrumbs to find its way back to the Obama era rules.
The Army Research Laboratory is researching how it can meld living tissue into robots. The lab says using muscles in robots can help them with flexibility and stability. The program is in the pre-prototype phase and is still far away from actually implementing any Frankenbots. However, researchers at the lab say muscles from flies have very desirable characteristics for robots. (Federal News Network)
Agencies gave 17 examples of how to make federal procurement go faster. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy details how agencies can speed up the time between identifying a need and receiving the goods or services. In a new memo from outgoing Administrator Dr. Michael Wooten, OFPP finalized the definition of Procurement Administrative Lead Time and provides guidance to ensure consistent application across the government. OFPP also offered a four-phase approach to reduce PALT as well as 17 agency examples of strategies already in use to reduce lead time. The PALT memo was one of two Wooten released in the last two weeks. The other focused on emphasizing skills over education in contract requirements.
The Justice Department was less aggressive in pursuing False Claims Act cases against government contractors in fiscal 2020. DoJ said it recovered $2.2 billion under the False Claims Act last year with most of the money coming from health care fraud. Justice said it recovered $1.6 billion in health care fraud cases last year. Federal contracting False Claims Act cases accounted for only part of the remaining $600 million. In 2019, Justice brought in $3 billion in total False Claims Act recoveries.
The second-largest federal employee union wants more permanent telework arrangements once the pandemic is over. The National Treasury Employees Union said telework and COVID-19 vaccinations for federal workers are among its top priorities in the new year. NTEU National President Tony Reardon said he’s seen successful remote work policies at several agencies during the pandemic, including the IRS. The union will push for more telework through legislation and in bargaining agreements with individual agencies. It also wants more agencies to help their employees get vaccinated from COVID-19. (Federal News Network)