Senator looking for info on DHS passback with Office of Management and Budget

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  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) wants more information on DHS’ passback with the Office of Management and Budget. McCaskill specifically said she wants to know why OMB has proposed a pay freeze for civilian employees next year, and if DHS believes a freeze would impact the agency’s ability to attract and retain top talent. The preliminary passback showed wide discrepancies between DHS’ own request and OMB’s plans for the upcoming 2019 budget. McCaskill’s office received this document from a whistleblower. (Sen. Claire McCaskill)
  • The Trump administration is touting the cuts to federal regulations made in 2017. Neomi Rao, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs administrator, said last fiscal year marked the first year the federal government kept the total cost of federal agency regulations below zero. Rao said agencies saved over $8 billion in costs or about $570 billion per year. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Special Counsel wants answers from the Veterans Affairs Department over a whistleblower complaint about its organ transplant procedures. VA hospital nurse Jamie McBride told OSC that due to the limited number of VA facilities that handle transplants, patients must often relocate for months at a time to receive treatment. McBride also said delays in communication between VA medical centers and transplant center result in delays for medical care. (U.S. Office of Special Counsel)
  • A new online tool from VA and the Defense Department is aimed to helps vets with upgrading the conditions of their discharge. It offers guidance on new policies from the Pentagon that could be confusing. DoD said the tool will give vets a few simple questions and then refer them to the forms they need to fill out. (Department of Defense)
  • U.S. service members serving overseas are accustomed to following strict orders to keep their locations and missions secret. But many of them may have inadvertently violated operational security rules with the devices they wear on their wrists. At issue is a fitness-focused social networking platform called Strava, which subscribers use to share data from their workouts, using devices like FitBits. The company recently built a worldwide, interactive map showing hotspots of its users’ activity. But as the Washington Post first reported yesterday, an Australian security researcher discovered the map clearly shows hotspots in and around foreign military bases — some of which the U.S. military has disclosed, and some which it hasn’t. The Pentagon said it’s still exploring the implications of the data. (Federal News Radio)
  • The EPA will go to court to end a gag order on negotiations over its largest superfund cleanup site. Administrator Scott Pruitt said the agency’s goal is to have the Butte Hill, Montana mining site finished by 2024. Twelve years of negotiations among EPA, state and local officials, and Atlantic Richfield Company have been conducted in secret because of a federal court order. With final agreement on the cleanup, EPA officials said they want residents to know the details. (Associated Press)
  • The Partnership for Public Service released the full Best Places to Work in Federal Government Rankings. After six consecutive years of declining employee engagement scores, the Homeland Security Department improved by six points. Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke said listening tours and a focus on leadership contributed to DHS’ improvement in 2017. The Partnership looked at Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results for 410 agencies and subcomponents in 2017. The full results are late this year. The Partnership says the Office of Personnel Management didn’t share the full data set until mid-December. (Federal News Radio)
  • More than a year into the Trump administration, a federal chief information officer has finally arrived. President Donald Trump announced his intent to appoint Suzette Kent to be the administrator of the Office of Electronic Government in the Office of Management and Budget. While the President didn’t call out the title as federal CIO, for all intent and purposes, that is the role Kent would fill. Kent will come to OMB from Ernst & Young where she has been a principal in the financial services office for the last two-plus years. She has also worked for JP Morgan Chase and Accenture in the financial services sector. She replaced Tony Scott, who served as Federal CIO for the final two years of the Obama administration. Margie Graves, the federal deputy CIO, has been the acting CIO since Scott left in January 2017.  (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate confirmed R.D. James to head the Army Corps of Engineers. The vote was 89 to 1. James is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. He was appointed to serve on the Mississippi River Commission by President Ronald Reagan and held the position for 36 years. (Congress.gov)