Agencies escape sequestration cuts in FY 2017

  • With just over four months left in fiscal 2017, agencies can breathe a sign of relief as they will not face cuts under sequestration. The Congressional Budget Office released its final sequester report of 2017. In the report, CBO says the current fiscal year hasn’t exceeded the statutory caps on discretionary spending. (Congressional Budget Office)
  • Lawmakers want answers on the firing of FBI Director James Comey. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz asking him to look into the firing as his office investigates Comey’s actions during the 2016 election. Some Senate Democrats even want Horowitz to open a new investigation into “political interference with the FBI’s investigation.” (House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • The Office of Government Ethics wants Trump appointees to fill out a new Certification of Ethics Agreement Compliance. OGE said this new form simplifies the process for reporting and monitoring compliance with ethics agreements. The agency also hopes it will make more transparent actions Senate-confirmed appointees are taking to resolve potential conflicts. (Office of Government Ethics)
  • For the Agriculture Department, reorganization starts with two new undersecretary positions. Secretary Sonny Perdue established an undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs as called for in a 2014 bill. He said the new position will work with the U.S. Trade Representative to push foreign sales of U.S. crops. Perdue also established a farm production and conservation mission area to focus on domestic agricultural issues. It too will have an undersecretary and combine several agencies. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced the establishment of the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. He named Peter O’Rourke, a veteran and former consultant, as senior adviser and executive director of the office. Shulkin created the office in response to an Executive Order from President Donald Trump. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • Some military personnel ideas may be coming back from the dead. Controversial Defense Department personnel reforms from the Obama administration may be making a comeback. A special assistant to the Joint Chief of Staff said leadership is circling an email with some of the Force of the Future initiatives. The Force of the Future reforms are responsible for increasing maternity leave for service members and opening private public exchange programs for DoD employees. The reforms received criticism from Republicans for focusing on issues they thought were secondary to readiness. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House is getting close to deciding whether it will send more troops into Afghanistan. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said more troops are needed to fight off the Taliban. Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the Defense Intelligence Agency director, said the U.S. should try something different like putting military advisers closer to the front lines.
  • The Air Force is changing the approval process for certifying cyber tools and systems. The service is moving away from a single authority approval and giving it to experts in charge of certain cyber areas. The Air Force said the new policy places risk decisions on people who are familiar with the tools and systems being used. (Air Force)
  • The cyber bug bounty trend is coming to civilian agencies. The General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service will run a program to pay outside computer experts to find problems in their software code. Otherwise known as a bug bounty program, TTS awarded a contract to HackerOne to run the initiative. Several TTS public-facing Web applications will come under review by outside experts with payouts ranging from $300 to $5,000. The program works by HackerOne reviewing bugs submitted by the public and sending any valid problems to TTS. TTS then will correct the issue. Previously, only the Defense Department and military services have held bug bounties. (General Services Administration)