House GOP VA Committee members look to make firing of poor-performing VA employees easier

In today's Federal Newscast: House Republicans are looking to make it easier to fire VA employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sen. Tommy Tuberville's...

  • House Republicans want to make it easier to fire employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Republicans on the House VA Committee are looking to advance the Restore VA Accountability Act. Committee Chairman Mike Bost (R-Ill.) is leading the bill and said the legislation will help the VA get rid of poor performers and those accused of serious misconduct more quickly. Federal employee unions and good-government groups say the bill will only make it harder for the VA to recruit employees. Lawmakers introduced this latest bill after the VA announced it isn’t using authorities in 2017 VA Accountability Act and Whistleblower Protection Act to fast-track the firing of employees.
  • Thousands of employees will likely see their paychecks go up next year, thanks to locality pay changes. But some federal employee advocacy groups are saying that is just the tip of the iceberg. The Senior Executives Association, the Professional Managers Association and others said those proposals to tweak locality pay don’t address broader pay issues for the federal workforce. A coalition of federal manager organizations is calling on the President’s Pay Agent to propose a bigger fix to pay compression. A pay cap for Executive Schedule employees also affects feds in the highest levels of the General Schedule. Along with urging a new proposal, the groups are also calling on the pay agent to conduct a study on the impacts of pay compression on attrition, retention and promotions.
  • The Pentagon could have 650 unfilled general and flag-rank officer vacancies by the end of the year, if the Senate doesn't end its block on voting for military confirmations. Military leaders say it is starting to cause a logjam of promotions for lower-ranked officers. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) put a hold on the confirmation votes as a protest against Defense Department rules regarding service members' paid leave and travel for reproductive health. Marine Corps Gen. David Berger, meanwhile, relinquished his position as the Commandant of the Marine Corps on Monday, with no replacement due to the hold.
  • The path to more employees at the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development will be a bit tougher. House Appropriations Committee lawmakers are cutting from the Biden administration's 2024 budget request to increase the number of employees at Transportation and HUD by 2,300 people. This decision is one of several cuts committee members made as part of the Transportation, HUD and related agencies 2024 spending bill released yesterday. Republican leaders want to reduce overall discretionary spending for these agencies by more than $8.6 billion, or 8.7% compared to the president's request. Total discretionary spending, however, would be $2.9 billion above the 2023 budget.
  • The Department of Homeland Security plans to loosen restrictions around the use of digital driver’s licenses. DHS is developing regulations to temporarily waive REAL ID Act requirements for state-issued mobile driver’s licenses, so long as they meet security and data integrity standards. That is according to a White House report on the Biden administration’s burden reduction efforts. Mobile drivers licenses are already in use across several states. And the Transportation Security Agency is accepting mobile drivers licenses from TSA PreCheck customers at two dozen airports as part of a pilot project.
  • There's a diplomat shortage at the State Department, so the call has gone out to former diplomats to rejoin the Foreign Service. Eligible individuals would return to the same grade and career path they had when they left the department. The 1980 Foreign Service Act allows the department to reappoint former career members as needed. If selected for a reappointment, candidates agree to take on their first assignments in positions designated as hard to fill or in positions the department urgently needs to fill. The deadline to apply is July 31.
    (Foreign Service reappointments - State Department)
  • The Agriculture Department didn't have to wait too long to get another second in command. The Senate yesterday confirmed Xochitl Torres Small as deputy secretary. She replaces Jewel Bronaugh who, in February, left after two years. Torres Small has been with USDA since October 2021, serving as the undersecretary for Rural Development. Prior to joining the Biden administration, Torres Small was a congresswoman from New Mexico. During her time in Congress, she was a member of the Agriculture Committee, the Armed Services Committee and was chairwoman of the Oversight, Management and Accountability Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Committee
  • President Joe Biden has named his pick for chief financial officer at one of the largest federal agencies. Biden officially nominated Jeff Rezmovic yesterday to serve as the Department of Homeland Security’s CFO. Rezmovic, who started as a speechwriter at FEMA, most recently served as DHS chief of staff for policy. If confirmed, he would be in charge of overseeing a sprawling DHS financial management system that is in the midst of a major modernization effort.
  • One senator is turning up the heat on the Office of Personnel Management to fix its retirement services program. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said OPM's outdated program for retiring feds is causing backlogs and delays in processing times. Lankford is looking for a progress update from OPM on its IT modernization plan, as well as its plan to improve processing times. But at the same time, the backlog of retirement claims is continuing to shrink. In June, OPM reported its lowest claims inventory since 2017.

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