Judge orders Army Corps of Engineers send whistleblower ‘thank you letter’

The 2023 settlement terms, called for the letter to Dr. Toni Savage, along with an undisclosed monetary award.

  • A judge with the Merit Systems Protection Board is ordering the Army Corps of Engineers to send a letter of appreciation to a whistleblower. The judge ruled that the Army Corps has not lived up to the terms of its 2023 settlement and still owes Dr. Toni Savage a letter of "sincere thanks" for exposing millions of dollars of contracting fraud she witnessed as a contracting officer at the Army Corps of Engineers Huntsville, Alabama Support Center. The Army Corps was also required to pay an undisclosed sum of money to Savage who suffered retaliation for blowing the whistle.
  • The General Services Administration is a step closer to setting up a new way for agencies to verify and authenticate the identities of their customers, by taking its Login.gov platform to the next level. And it is going to lean on industry expertise to do that. GSA awarded eight vendors a spot on a new blanket purchase agreement for next generation identity proofing capabilities. Through the BPA, which has a ceiling of $194 million, the eight vendors will provide a variety of services including document capture, authentication and validation, biometric comparison and identity resolution. The agency is using the BPA as part of its improvements to Login.gov after a scathing audit report in 2023. GSA received 17 bids, so a protest is still possible.
    (GSA awards next generation ID proofing contract - Federal Procurement Data System)
  • The Veterans Benefits Administration is looking to move away from mandatory overtime. VBA is providing more benefits to more veterans than at any other point in its history, but it is looking to make sure its workforce can keep up with the pace. VBA is asking Congress to nearly double its overtime budget in fiscal 2025. But Undersecretary for Benefits Joshua Jacobs said VBA is looking to move away from mandatory overtime, in an effort to reduce employee burnout. “We are working very hard to move away from mandatory overtime. I don’t think it is sustainable in the long term," Jacobs said.
  • Agencies are seeing some trouble spots when it comes to hiring employees with disabilities. A specific hiring authority, called Schedule A, is meant to help agencies streamline the hiring process to onboard individuals with disabilities. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found agencies face confusion and difficulty when it comes to using that authority. Many agency officials are not familiar with the hiring authority. And often, agencies do not have enough qualified HR staff to process those hiring actions. The EEOC is calling for better guidance, clarification and outreach to help agencies better understand and use the authority.
  • A Department of Homeland Security component is facing an exodus of employees. Over the last six months, DHS’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD) has lost 24 out of about 240 employees, representing roughly 10% of its staff. The law authorizing the office expired in December and Congress has yet to pass a reauthorization. Without that, CWMD leaders said the office will continue to lose employees and struggle to recruit new talent. The office has also faced low morale among employees, leading to some of the lowest employee engagement scores in the federal government in recent years.
  • The Army is the biggest participant in the first round of the Pentagon’s Replicator program. One system the Army was already working on made the cut for the initial round of the Replicator initiative. The program aims to field thousands of small, cheap drones. The service is already proposing several systems for the second round of the program. Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Doug Bush did not say which system was selected for the first round. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James Slife said the service’s programs are not mature enough for round one of the Replicator initiative.
    (National Security Innovation Base - Reagan Foundation)
  • The Justice Department is advancing new standards for systems that underpin the Freedom of Information Act. DoJ is seeking comment on the first-ever FOIA business standards. Feedback is due by May 17. The standards are intended to help agencies coalesce around common FOIA services, while giving vendors a better idea of how to build FOIA case management systems. The federal government received a record number of FOIA requests last year. Many federal FOIA offices report that outdated and disjointed technology is among their greatest challenges.
  • The largest military lifestyle survey has found that the number of military families encouraging young people to enlist has significantly dropped. At the same time, the number of families steering young people away from service has doubled since 2016. The military services have struggled to meet their recruitment goals in the last several years. Families not recommending service to their loved ones will further exacerbate the Pentagon’s recruitment crisis, as the majority of new recruits report having someone in the family who did serve.
  • The Army is adding a new approach to filling some of its uniformed personnel shortfalls: bringing back retirees. A message sent yesterday from the service’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, authorizes the use of the Army’s Retiree Recall Program to fill “key and critical” position vacancies. All of the recalls will be voluntary, and commands can request either specific retired soldiers to return to active duty, or issue requests to fill particular positions. The Army expects most of the recalls to last for one to two years, and two to three years for retired aviators.
  • The IRS is looking to use artificial intelligence to conduct more targeted audits, but two House Republicans are trying to put a stop to that. Reps. Clay Higgins (R-La.) and Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) are leading the No AI Audits Act. The bill would require the IRS to select and initiate audits, based on decisions from its workforce, not AI algorithms. The bill would also limit the ability of the IRS to set AI guidance, without first setting clear taxpayer protections.
  • A vast majority of agencies have been effectively offering Personal Assistance Services (PAS) for feds with disabilities. That has stayed true even in work environments with increased telework, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Agencies are legally required to have PAS programs to help staff with disabilities perform physical tasks. For the roughly 15% of agencies that are having trouble with the requirements, EEOC recommends discussing solutions in senior management meetings. EEOC said, when possible, agencies should also allocate additional staffing and funding to provide PAS accommodations.
    (The impact of telework on Personal Assistance Services - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)

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