White House officials who think the Hatch Act doesn’t apply to them may need to think again

In today's Federal Newscast, the Office of Special Counsel vows White House officials will now face full consequences for any Hatch Act violations.

  • Violations of the Hatch Act will be prosecuted. That's a law that strictly limits federal employees’ political activities. The Office of Special Counsel vows White House officials will now face full consequences for any Hatch Act violations, the same as any other civilian federal employee would. Hampton Dellinger, the top official at OSC, said the new advisory option on the Hatch Act comes after seeing multiple violations in recent years from administration officials. The OSC made a couple other changes as well. *Former* feds are no longer ruled out from facing consequences of Hatch Act violations they committed while working for the government. And displaying political signage at work is now fully banned, regardless of whether it’s before or after Election Day.
  • The solicitation for the sixth iteration off the governmentwide acquisition technology contract known as SEWP has hit the street. NASA's latest approach to this multiple award contract will focus on three categories: IT, communication and audio/visual full service offerings, enterprise-wide strategic solutions to enhance and improve ITC/AV products and mission-based services to include everything from custom programming to digital government services to telecommunications and network services. NASA will hold virtual industry day on June 4, and proposals are due July 11. NASA expects to award the 10-year contract by May 2025.
  • The Defense Department is adding more security rigor to the Small Business Innovation Research or SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer, or STTR programs. The Pentagon is now requiring each service or defense agency with a SBIR or STTR program to have a due diligence program to assess security risks such as foreign ownership of small businesses applying for awards worth less than $5 million. DoD is offering an online course on foreign ownership or influence to help small business comply with the due diligence requirements. Defense Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks signed the memo to establish the program yesterday. Congress required DoD to establish this oversight program in the SBIR and STTR Extension Act of 2022.
  • Veterans Affairs recently approved its millionth disability claim under a historic expansion of benefits. Now it’s stepping up its outreach to ensure more veterans complete their claims. The Veterans Benefits Administration estimates 300,000 veterans and their families submitted an intent to file a disability benefits claim under the toxic-exposure PACT Act, but didn’t yet complete that claim. VBA plans to follow up with veterans and survivors through phone calls, text messages and emails. It’s also working with veterans service organizations to help get the word out. Veterans who submitted an intent to file have a year to complete their benefits claim.
  • VA is seeing positive trends in how employees view senior leadership. The agency once again took fifth place in the latest Best Places to Work rankings from the Partnership for Public Service. But the department ranked third when it came to employees’ views of senior agency leadership. “Employees feel like they are more satisfied, more engaged, when they know that senior leadership is asking for their input, and they're using that input in decision making," VA Chief Human Capital Officer Tracey Therit said. The VA also raised its engagement and satisfaction score by 3.4 points, increasing by the largest margin of the top five agencies.
  • National Cyber Director Harry Coker is now calling on Congress to increase funding for several sector risk management agencies, which oversee critical infrastructure areas like water systems or healthcare. Coker would like an additional $12 million for the Department of Health and Human Services and an extra $25 million for the Environment Protection Agency, which oversees water sector cybersecurity. EPA is also requesting a separate $25 million to establish a grant program for cybersecurity in the water sector, which is known for having some of the weakest cyber practices of any critical infrastructure sector.
  • House lawmakers are telling the Postal Service’s regulator to stop higher mail prices going into effect this summer. Higher prices for lower service? Top Democrats on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee said that plan’s a nonstarter. They’re asking the Postal Regulatory Commission to reject USPS plans to raise prices in July. USPS plans to raise the price of a first-class Forever stamp to 73 cents, up from 68 cents. That’s the sixth price increase since March 2021. Lawmakers say the higher prices, while USPS fails to meet service targets, will drive away customers. USPS delivered about 84% of all first-class mail on time for the second quarter of this fiscal year.
  • The Senate has confirmed Melissa Dalton as the next undersecretary of the Air Force. The service’s’ second-highest-ranking civilian position has been without a confirmed leader since March of 2023, when Gina Ortiz-Jones stepped down. Kristyn Jones, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for financial management has been handling the undersecretary’s duties since then. Until now, Dalton has been working in an acting role for a completely different job – performing the duties of the deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy.
  • The traditional first step toward building an annual defense authorization bill is done. The House Armed Services Committee passed its version of the NDAA by a vote of 57-1 late Wednesday night. The gargantuan policy bill includes hundreds of provisions, including one that would increase pay for junior enlisted members by almost 20%. Other military members would get a 4.5% raise, in line with President Biden’s budget proposal. The Senate will start work on its version of the bill next month.

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