DoD IG condemns behavior of former White House Military Office director

In today's Federal Newscast: The Defense Department Inspector General issues a critical report on the behavior of the former director of the White House Militar...

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  • The Pentagon’s inspector general is recommending the Army take “appropriate action” against the former director of the White House Military Office. The IG found Brig. Gen. Jonathan Howerton used vulgar language and obscene gestures in a “pervasive” way, disrespected subordinate employees and misspent a small amount of travel funding. Howerton left the position more than a year ago, but the IG said its investigation was delayed because White House and DoD lawyers initially withheld key documents. The Biden administration turned the records over to the IG shortly after its appointees took office.
  • The Thrift Savings Plan board said there has been “significant improvement” since an initially bumpy launch of its modernization project. Call wait times at TSP’s customer service center are down to 20 seconds, from an average of two hours at its peak over the summer. But some participants have larger concerns with the new My Account interface: They say the layout is clunky, and information is hard to find. The board said it is considering participants’ feedback and continually making adjustments to the site as needed. (‘We will continue to make tweaks’: FRTIB reponds to feedback after TSP update – Federal News Network)
  • A new Sgt. Maj. of the Army will take over as head of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps. Sgt. Maj. Michael  Weimer is replacing Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston. Weimer will not have a formal change of command until August 2023. Until then, he will continue in his position as the senior enlisted leader of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Weimer, who carries the designation of Green Beret, will be in charge of personnel issues for Army enlisted soldiers including health, welfare, uniforms and family life.
  • The Air Force is setting up a new center of excellence to help it reach financial auditability. The Air Force comptroller’s office is turning to a long list of technology modernization initiatives to help it earn a clean audit sooner. From expanding the use of identity and access management to moving more applications to the cloud, the service is on a path toward new and better financial systems. Kristyn Jones, the assistant secretary for financial management and comptroller, said a new robotic process automation center of excellence is at the heart of the IT modernization effort. “We use it to help manage an intake process, provide guidance on what processes make good candidates for automation and manage deployments,” Jones said. The Air Force’s comptroller’s office has 40 RPAs already in use and many more in its pipeline.
  • The Defense Department organization responsible for background investigations is sticking with two of its incumbent contractors. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency awarded contracts to Peraton and CACI worth potentially $2.25 billion each. The companies will continue to provide the agency with nationwide background investigations fieldwork services. The ordering period on the contracts lasts through December 2027.
  • The Veterans Affairs Department is getting an early start on processing some PACT Act benefit claims. The VA said it will immediately begin processing PACT Act benefits claims for veterans who are terminally ill. The VA will begin processing all other PACT Act claims on January 1, because it is still implementing some of the authorities and capabilities under the law. The VA estimates 176,000 veterans have submitted claims for PACT Act benefits so far. The legislation is expected to expand VA benefits and health care for 3.5 million veterans. The VA is holding events across the country this week to encourage eligible veterans to apply for PACT Act benefits.
  • A push to legislate new software security requirements has hit a roadblock.  The compromise 2023 National Defense Authorization Act does not include new requirements for software bills of material (SBOMs). A Senate amendment would have directed DoD to require SBOMs in all contracts for noncommercial software. But the final agreement left the idea for the software ingredients lists on the cutting room floor. Still, lawmakers said they want DoD to comply with any new SBOM guidance that comes out of the White House.
  • The National Science Foundation, the Patent and Trademark Office, NASA and several other agencies are at the forefront of an effort to further breakdown barriers to science, technology, engineering, math and medicine (STEMM). The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said a series of new training, education and workforce programs from agencies will help expand opportunities for underserved communities. NSF has four programs providing grants or scholarships for everyone from high school to graduate students in these STEMM disciplines. USPTO created an intellectual property internship program and the Department of Veterans Affairs is offering additional GI Bill benefits toward qualifying STEMM degrees.
  • The Energy Department is getting $35 billion to implement the Inflation Reduction Act, but its inspector general’s office is getting less than 1% of those funds to ensure the money is well spent. Top Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee are calling on House appropriators to increase funding for the Energy Department’s IG to oversee the spending. The lawmakers said the funding is necessary for the IG’s office to flag fraud, waste and abuse.
  • Active duty service members transitioning into the private sector need to take full advantage of career counseling offered by the Defense Department, according to a Government Accountability Office report. The Transition Assistance Program helps servicemembers choose a career, pursue higher education or find a job after military service. According to the GAO report, 25% of servicemembers who most need support do not attend a mandatory two-day class, and do not start the program at least one year before leaving service, as required by the program. GAO recommended that DoD develop a plan to get better attendance at the two-day class, and have servicemembers start the program earlier.

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