VA’s biggest union already pushing back on agency’s closure plans

In today's Federal Newscast, the Veterans Affairs Department's largest employees union is raising hackles over a plan to trim back VA facilities.

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  • The Department of Veterans Affairs’ largest union is raising hackles over a plan to trim back agency facilities. The final plan isn’t yet released. But already the American Federation of Government Employees said the closure plan would deny veterans their preferred choices, and force them into a patchwork of private care, and lengthen wait time. Secretary Dennis McDonough is expected to announce the results of the VA’s Asset and Infrastructure Review next week. The review was required by VA reform legislation in 2018.
  • A major reform bill expected to save the Postal Service more than $100 billion passes the Senate. The first major USPS reform bill to make it out of Congress in 15 years heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. The Postal Service Reform Act eliminates a 2006 mandate for USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits. It also requires all future postal retirees to enroll in Medicare parts B and D. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the legislation gives the agency relief from an unsustainable business model. “Because of today’s bill, the Postal Service will be stronger, more efficient and better able to serve more people, and we did it on a bipartisan basis,” said Schumer. (Federal News Network)
  • Could DHS’ Intelligence and Analysis wing helped better prepare the government for the January 6 attack on the Capitol? A new inspector general report said while I&A identified specific threat information related to the events that day, it didn’t issue any intelligence products about them until Jan. 8, 2021. The IG inadequate training was the main culprit, and made five recommendations to improve that and its review processes.
  • Some good news for the Department of Homeland Security’s acquisition programs. The Government Accountability Office found most DHS programs are meeting their goals. That’s despite management issues and COVID-19 delays. GAO said 20 out of 29 programs at DHS were meeting their program baseline goals as of last September. Still, five DHS programs exceeded their cost or schedule goals, or both in some cases. For example, the agency’s next-generation biometrics system continues to face delays and cost overruns.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is hoping to give agencies better guidance on zero trust security. CISA is updating its Zero Trust Maturity Model to better account for its current programs and services. That includes the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program. CISA officials are looking to update the CDM program to reflect both the zero trust security push, as well as agencies’ ongoing cloud adoption. CISA is also offering guidance on how to adopt zero trust for mobile devices. This comes as agencies develop implementation plans under the White House’s new zero trust strategy. (Federal News Network)
  • U.S. Space Command is new to the military, but it’s grappling with some heady issues. Eccentric billionaires, rules of engagement and space debris all sound like ideas from a comic book. But they are the challenges U.S. Space Command is taking on in its third year of existence. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the command’s chief said multiplying space junk is one of the areas SPACECOM is putting a lot of its resources. SPACECOM has seen the amount of debris outside the atmosphere almost double since it started tracking the objects. The military wants to team with corporations to clean up some of the space trash. (Federal News Network)
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee approves a handful of important Defense Department appointees. The committee voted through Robert Storch to be the next DoD Inspector General. Others getting approval include Lester Martinez-Lopez as assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Christopher Lowman as assistant secretary of Defense for sustainment and Peter Beshar as general counsel of the Air Force.
  • DoD will have to wait a bit longer for three of its top political appointees to get to work. After having gotten unanimous approval from the Senate Armed Services Committee, the nominees to be the Pentagon’s No. 2 personnel official, the Army’s top installations official and the Air Force’s assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs hit a roadblock on the Senate floor. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Ark.) objected to confirming the nominees by unanimous consent yesterday. The procedural step means the Senate will need to vote separately on each nominee, which is a process that could take a while.
  • The National Defense Industrial Association is looking for a new leader. NDIA said its current president and CEO, retired Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle plans to leave after a nearly five-year tenure with the association. Carlisle came to NDIA in June 2017 after retiring from the Air Force after 39 years. NDIA has created a special committee and brought on executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates to identify a candidate to succeed Carlisle. The association expects the new president and CEO to be in place by April 1.
  • A committee that sets pay rates for blue-collar federal employees gets new leadership. The Office of Personnel Management named a former director, Janice Lachance, to serve as chairwoman of the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee. In this role, she’ll advise the current OPM director on compensation rates for trade, craft, and laboring federal employees whose pay is set according to local prevailing wage levels. The National Federation of Federal Employees said it supports Lachance as the committee’s chairwoman.
  • A new progress report on data centers shows more consolidation and less optimization. Agencies closed more data centers in fiscal 2020 and 2021 than expected. This led to more than $873 million in savings or cost avoidance, bringing the total over the last decade to $6.6 billion from the data center initiative. The Government Accountability Office found that while agencies closed more data centers than expected, they struggled with optimization goals. Of the 17 agencies it reviewed, GAO said nine met all four optimization targets like advanced energy metering and server utilization, and three others met three of the goals.

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