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The three-member board that oversees security at the U.S. Capitol has started looking for a new permanent police chief. The search will be nationwide. Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman has been leading the department since just after the Capitol Hill riots on Jan. 6. The former chief and the sergeants-at-arms for the House and Senate resigned in the aftermath of the security breach. (Federal News Network)
The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill the Senate passed this weekend also includes some help for government contractors. The measure includes an amendment sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that’s meant to keep critical personnel on contractors’ payrolls – even when they can’t report to their normal worksites because of COVID restrictions. That provision, known as Section 3610, was originally part of last year’s CARES Act, but it was due to expire at the end of this month. The new relief bill extends it through the end of September. The final package is still subject to a House vote later this week.
Top House Republicans are making a plea to the Biden administration for a bigger military budget. Eight Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee want the president to increase the Defense budget by 3-5% for 2022. That would put the budget around $800 billion. In a letter to President Biden, the lawmakers said the Defense budget needs to increase at the rate of inflation and that the United States is facing unprecedented international threats. Detractors of that argument said the Pentagon needs to learn to do more with less and point to how the military consistently fails audits on how it spends funds.
President Joe Biden has nominated two female generals to four star commands, after Pentagon officials purposefully delayed their promotions until a new administration took over. The nominations for General Jacqueline Van Ovost to lead the Transportation Command and Lt. General Laura Richardson to become head of the Southern Command were put forth last week. The New York Times reported former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley withheld the personnel moves while President Trump was in office.
Two owners of government contracting firms in Texas pled guilty to defrauding agencies by claiming they were service-disabled veteran-owned businesses when they were not. The Justice Department said Michael Wibracht of San Antonio, Texas and Ruben Villarreal, also of San Antonio fraudulently obtained more than $250 million from agencies between 2004 and 2017. As part of this scheme, Wibracht and others installed Villareal, a service-disabled veteran, as the owner of a general construction company and then bid on set-aside contracts. Wibracht and other co-conspirators, however, had financial and operational control over the construction company.
The disagreement between the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Management and Budget over what is a data center continues to simmer. The GAO offered muted praise for the federal data center consolidation initiative in its sixth report on the nearly eight-year-old effort. GAO highlighted agencies’ progress in closing or planning to close 230 data centers and saving more than $1 billion in fiscal 2019 and 2020. But auditors also said OMB’s decision to change the definition of data centers in 2019 excluded about 4,500 of them and left agencies at risk of cyber attack. GAO made one new recommendation and said there are 53 others that remain outstanding.
The Interior Department is rescinding the previous administration’s policies that required scientists base their decisions on the best publicly available science. The previous administration said the policy was a step toward transparency. Interior said career scientists never reviewed the policy. And requiring Interior partners to publish their data prevented the department from using sensitive data to make decisions or enter into contracts for cutting-edge research. Acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega said bureaus should review their activities and take steps to roll back any policies that complied with the 2018 order.
Agencies have new directions to reengage and reopen collective bargaining contracts with federal employee unions. The Office of Personnel Management said agencies should immediately stop any actions that implemented the previous administration’s 2018 workforce executive orders. President Biden repealed those orders with one of his own on his third day in office. OPM said agencies should revisit bargaining agreements and negotiate new ones with federal unions. Agencies in the middle of negotiations now should take a similar approach. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Homeland Security is asking for feedback from vendors on how it should pay in-demand cybersecurity experts. DHS is standing up a Cybersecurity Talent Management System, and is offering a contract award to support its new Cybersecurity Compensation System. DHS said both projects rethink long-held theories about how the federal government recruits and retains cybersecurity talent. Vendors have until March 9 to comment on the request for proposals. DHS expects to make the contact award April 29.
DHS signs off on a rule to stem shipments of illegal drugs. The rule empowers Customs and Border Protection to help the Postal Service stem the delivery of illegal opioids in the mail. The regulation will enforce the 2018 Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention, or STOP Act, which requires advanced electronic data on all international packages coming into the United States. CBP under the Stop Act was supposed to finalize the rule by October 2019, but the agency didn’t even submit its proposal to the Office of Management and Budget until a year past the deadline.