Members of Congress press AG Garland to get agencies to comply with FOIA laws

In today's Federal Newscast, lawmakers are pressing Attorney General Merrick Garland to hold agencies accountable for following open records laws.

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  • A bill aimed at small business participation in the federal marketplace is now law. The Promoting Rigorous and Innovative Cost Efficiencies (PRICE) Act, requires the Office of Management and Budget to train the federal acquisition workforce on ways to make small businesses a central part of their contracting decisions. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced the bill. The Small Business Administration reports the government awarded a record-breaking $145 billion in contracts to small businesses last year, but the number of businesses receiving prime contracts is decreasing.
  • The Postal Service finalizes plans for a mostly gas-powered vehicle fleet, over the Biden administration’s objections. USPS plans to purchase more than 148,000 gas-powered delivery vehicles over the next decade as part of its next-generation delivery vehicle contract award. That’s about 90% of its new fleet. USPS said at least 10% of its next-gen fleet will be electric vehicles, and that the first 5,000 electric vehicles will be ready in 2023. USPS plans to purchase more electric vehicles if funding becomes available. The White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency said the plan runs counter to the Biden administration’s vision for a net-zero emission federal government. (Federal News Network)
  • The White House finishes its big supply chain review, with fresh implications for federal agencies. The Office of Management and Budget is preparing to issue new Buy American rules that carve out a category of critical products eligible for enhanced price preferences. The rules will also finalize an increase in the domestic content threshold agencies must follow when buying U.S. goods. The actions come as the Biden administration wraps up a year-long review of U.S. supply chains. Officials believe the new rules will help American manufacturers secure government contracts and expand their operations.
  • Vacancies in high-ranking positions across the executive branch could soon be reaching a point where they disrupt the Biden administration’s agenda. The Partnership for Public Service said 70 high-ranking positions across the government are without a confirmed nominee, including the departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Transportation. The White House blames gridlock from Republicans in a sharply divided Senate, but it also has not submitted nominations for many of the open positions. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of Personnel Management’s financial management system upgrade is struggling. Another project to move an agency’s financial management system to a shared service provider is behind schedule and potentially over budget. OPM is teaming with Treasury’s ARC to upgrade the Trust Funds Federal Financial System, which manages $1 trillion in combined assets across the government’s retirement, health benefits and life insurance programs. The Government Accountability Office said the program is a year behind schedule and could cost $13 million more than planned. Auditors said the reasons for the struggles are several, including a lack of funding and a systems integration challenges with Treasury’s shared services platform. (Federal News Network)
  • Lawmakers are pressing Attorney General Merrick Garland to hold agencies accountable for following open records laws. A bipartisan group from both chambers of Congress said Garland needs to send a clear message on compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. They cite recent audits that show agencies are denying more FOIA requests, while the backlog of requests continues to grow. Lawmakers are urging Garland and the Justice Department to issue new guidance that emphasizes openness and transparency.
  • NASA is finally ready to move out with its $1.8 billion contract for IT services including communications, cloud, data center and cybersecurity support. The Government Accountability Office upheld NASA’s award to Leidos for the Advanced Enterprise Global Information Solutions or AEGIS contract. SAIC had protested the award to GAO claiming Leidos gained an unfair competitive advantage by hiring a former NASA official as a consultant for proposal preparation. GAO said Leidos didn’t gain an unfair advantage from the retired NASA official and has no reason to conclude the evaluation of proposals was unreasonable.
  • The Army said its plans for digital transformation work best when commanders have easy access to data and data analytics. The service’s chief data officer found that innovation flourished in areas where decision makers can get the specific information they need. The Army is currently implementing a strategy to modernize its IT institutions. (Federal News Network)
  • The leader of the Army’s public affairs office is stepping down. Brig. Gen. Amy Johnston is moving into retirement after an investigation from the Army Inspector General, the service told Federal News Network. Johnston led the Army’s public affairs department. She came under fire after 97% of the respondents to a workplace climate survey of her command found it to be a hostile environment. Sexual harassment and racial discrimination were also reported. Johnston was suspended in September after the results of the survey. She took over the position in April of 2019.
  • The Senate unanimously passed a bill that would expand healthcare eligibility for veterans exposed to toxic substances. Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act, which would extend the period of healthcare coverage from five years to ten years following discharge for post-9/11 veterans. The legislation would also improve training on toxic exposure for Department of Veterans Affairs employees, and require VA to set up toxic exposure screenings for veterans. The bill now moves to the House.

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