GAO: Measuring accomplishments of military bands is difficult

  • How do you measure the effectiveness of military bands? The objective of the 136 bands is to raise moral, provide music for ceremonies and promote public awareness, but the Government Accountability Office says there’s no way for the Defense Department to measure if they are achieving those goals. GAO said the military should develop quantifiable objectives. (Government Accountability Office)

 

  • How much stamps cost could be a decision the Postal Service makes itself in the future. The Postal Regulatory Commission will finish its 10-year review of the Postal Service’s price-setting system next month. PRC will likely give postal management freedom to raise the cost of postage stamps beyond the rate of inflation. USPS lost $2.1 billion in the third quarter of 2017. (Federal News Radio)

 

  • The Office of Personnel Management announced that open season will start Nov. 13. That’s when federal employees can change their health and dental insurance coverage and sign up for flexible spending accounts. Open season runs through Dec. 11. Feds paid on average 4.4 percent more for insurance coverage in 2017 and new FEHBP rates should be out in the next few months. (Office of Personnel Management)

 

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  • Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told the American Veterans National Convention the agency is making progress on priorities he outlined in May. He said the VA has scheduled 46 percent more appointments for veterans since the beginning of the year and reduced wait times by 64 percent. The disability claims backlog is around 87,000, down from about 100,000 in February. A new system to process disability claims in less than 30 days will be launched in September. And after hiring 280 new responders, less than 1 percent of calls to the Veterans Crisis hotline are going unanswered, down from 30 percent in January. (USVets.tv)

 

  • Federal agencies can use a wider array of responses to opioid addition thanks to a policy shift from the White House. President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency. That move supersedes statements earlier in the week from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. But it follows the recommendation of a White House commission report on opioids. The declaration, while symbolic, does give agencies more latitude in providing federal assistance to affected areas. (White House)

 

  • The Homeland Security Department is approaching reorganization from the top-down and bottom-up. Bridgette Stone, deputy director of program analysis and evaluation, said DHS built its reform framework partly from 2,000 employee suggestions. Stone said the department’s acting secretary is taking immediate action on “small ideas” to help gain workforce confidence. (Federal News Radio)

 

  • The Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy updated sample language for agency Freedom of Information Act response letters. The updated language instructs agencies to clearly notify the requester of their right to seek dispute resolution services and directs agencies to make it clear a requester has at least 90 days to file an appeal. (Department of Justice)

 

  • A new barrier is broken in the Air Force. The first female enlisted drone pilot is now serving. A technical sergeant who the Air Force is only identifying as “Courtney” completed training last week. Courtney has been in the Air Force for 11 years, she’s been part of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance career field. She previously served as a sensors operator for Predator and Global Hawk drones. The Air Force first started letting enlisted airmen to train as drone pilots in 2015. (Air Force)

 

  • White hat hackers help the Air Force’s cyber posture. The Hack-the-Air Force program resulted in the service closing more than 200 previously unknown vulnerabilities. The Air Force announced the results of its hackathon where 270 approved cyber experts found software problems and earned more than $130,000 in bug bounties. The hackathon included two active duty military personnel and several hackers who were under 20, including a 17-year-old who submitted 30 valid reports and earned the largest bounty sum during the challenge window. Along with the Air Force, the DoD, GSA’s 18F and several others have held bug bounty contests. (Air Force)