Office of Special Counsel has management advice for Veterans Affairs

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  • The Office of Special Counsel urged Veterans Affairs management to toughen its sanctions against employees who cheated. Often the OSC lightens the punishments of federal employees. This time, it has urged VA to bar the employees from any contact with their former division, a procurement shop at the Bedford, Massachusetts Medical Center. Heather Garneau-Harvey and her father, Dennis Garneau, steered landscaping and supplies contracts to Heather’s brother. When exposed, Dennis Garneau eventually quit federal service, and his daughter was demoted. (U.S. Office of Special Counsel)
  • OSC also says the V-A ignored whistleblower complaints about problems at a New Hampshire hospital for months. In a letter to the President, O-S-C expresses worries that V-A does not take internal complaints seriously. The office says it asked the agency to investigate allegations of clinical neglect, fly-infested operating rooms and dirty surgical instruments in Manchester, New Hampshire a year ago. But the office says V-A only addressed the issues after the same problems were reported by the Boston Globe seven months later. The special counsel says the case sends an “unacceptable” message to other would-be whistleblowers in the department. (U.S. Office of Special Counsel)
  • A new assessment by the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation painted a bleak picture of the Defense Department’s Joint Regional Security Stacks. It said the centralized cyber defense facilities aren’t able to protect DoD’s networks from “operationally realistic” attacks. OT&E said the problems stem from staffing shortages and integrating different technologies. (Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation)
  • The governmentwide security clearance program is back on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro did an early update of the list to bring congressional and stakeholder attention to the issue. GAO said agencies still have many of the same challenges they did more than 10 years ago with the clearance program. The Defense Department’s security clearance program has been on the GAO list before back in 2005. It took six years to come off the list. (Federal News Radio)
  • A final rule from the General Services Administration will make it easier for contractors to buy order-level materials. They can now purchase the supplies needed to fill an order through the Multiple Award Schedule using indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts. Jeffrey Koses, GSA’s Senior Procurement Executive, said the new rule will reduce contract duplication. (General Services Administration)
  • New guidance from the Office of Personnel Management told agencies how they should credit furloughed and exempted federal employees who worked during the government shutdown with back pay. OPM said agencies should also adjust leave accounts for any lost time. Employees on pre-approved leave without pay during the lapse will be charged for those three days. (Federal News Radio)
  • Several lawmakers sponsored a bill to re-establish a formal labor-management forum with senior agency executives, administration leaders and federal employee unions. The group would be similar to the Federal Council on Labor Management Relations President Trump disbanded back in September. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), along with Congressmen Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Don Young  (R-Ark.) sponsored the bill. The National Treasury Employees Union also supports the legislation. NTEU would be one of the unions on the council. (National Treasury Employees Union)
  • Another federal IT executive is heading out the door. Steve Grewal, the General Services Administration’s deputy chief information officer, is leaving the agency to go work for a startup. Sources confirm Grewal will join a new technology company in Silicon Valley as its chief technology officer. Sources didn’t know the name of the company. Grewal’s last day in the office is Jan. 31. Grewal joined GSA in May 2016 from the Education Department. As deputy CIO, Grewal oversaw a host of IT management issues, including data management, leveraging technology for innovative business practices and leading enterprisewide modernization efforts. (Federal News Radio)
  • A panel of women in federal technology leadership roles urge agencies to diversify the federal workforce. Speaking at an AFFIRM luncheon, Adriane Burton, chief information officer at the Health Resources and Services Administration, said she sees more women working as programmers in her workplace, but not in other jobs like network engineers and network security personnel. In 2015, the Office of Personnel Management found more than 70,000 women worked in STEM-related fields in the federal government. (Federal News Radio)