Bipartisan bill calls for giving ‘non-critical sensitive’ defense workers due process

To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe on PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari. 

  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers want some 200-hundred defense employees considered “non-critical sensitive” to have the same rights to appeal a disciplinary action as their other colleagues. Congressmen Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.) and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) introduced a new bill that would overturn a 2013 court decision, which prevents those employees from appealing to the Merit Systems Protection Board if they’re fired. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. The lawmakers said legislation would be the only way to overturn the court’s decision. Wittman and Norton introduced similar legislation back in 2016. (Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton)
  • Will Congress avert a government shutdown Friday night? Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told the Census Bureau workers he’s not sure. Speaking at a town hall Monday, Cardin said lawmakers agree on the budget numbers, but are stuck on policy issues like immigration and health care. Cardin also slammed the pay freeze in President Trump’s fiscal 2019 proposal. Instead, he proposes a 3.2 percent pay raise for federal employees. (Federal News Radio)
  • Industry associations press for IT modernization funding. With a potential government spending bill within reach, industry is reminding Congress and the White House to make sure the Technology Modernization Fund isn’t forgotten. Two separate letters from organizations representing federal contractors pushed for Congress to appropriate 228 million dollars for the TMF. Linda Moore, the President and CEO of TechNet, told Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional leaders in a letter that they need to fully fund the MGT Act in the name of cybersecurity. Meanwhile, Brian Larkin of the Internet Association, wrote to Federal CIO Suzette Kent highlighting the role commercial cloud can play in securing and modernizing federal IT.
  • Military retirees and their families can now enroll in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program. TRICARE will be getting rid of its retiree dental program at the end of the year. The 1.6 million people with the TRICARE dental program must pick a new insurance policy by that time. (Office of Personnel Management)
  • The Defense Department says it’s waiving prior authorization requirements for health care beneficiaries in the Western U.S. because of troubles with its TRICARE contract. Until the end of March, TRICARE beneficiaries in the Western U.S. will be able to get specialty care without a prior authorization from DoD’s contractor, Health Net. It’s an extension of a similar waiver that was supposed to expire at the end of last week. TRICARE officials said they’re responding to a backlog of referral claims that began to build up when DoD switched to new contractors at the beginning of this year. (Federal News Radio)
  • Employees at the Veterans Affairs Department worry new performance guidance means one mistake will cost them their jobs. Memos obtained by Federal News Radio said VA supervisors are no longer required to administer performance improvement plans. VA used the new VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act to implement new performance guidance for most of its employees. Federal News Radio obtained these new memos. The guidance said VA supervisors are no longer required to administer performance improvement plans. Guidance at the Veterans Benefits Administration gave employees up to two months to improve performance, or risk a demotion or removal. VBA employees can only have one performance deficiency a year. (Federal News Radio)
  • Two senators want to know how agencies are enforcing the Office of Management and Budget’s travel policies. Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Jodi Ernst (R-S.D.) asked OMB Director Mick Mulvaney how agencies are abiding by OMB travel guidance, and how it’s overseeing agency official travel. Inspectors general at four agencies have ongoing reviews of senior officials’ travel. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs Departments are among the four with active IG investigations. (Sen. Gary Peters)
  • The Senate approved President Trump’s pick to run a Homeland Security Department agency. At long last, it confirms Kevin McAleenan as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He’s been acting commissioner since the last inauguration day. He didn’t get a unanimous vote, but did receive substantial Democratic support. No newcomer, McAleenen had been deputy commissioner since 2014. He’s had 16 years at the agency altogether. In 2005 he won a Service to America Medal for helping set up CBP’s anti-terrorism office. (Service to America)
  • Three whistleblowers get big payouts from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC awarded $50 million to two tipsters, and $33 million to a third source, the agency’s largest whistleblower award. Its last record-breaking payout was a $30 million award in 2014. The SEC pays whistleblowers through a fund set up by the Dodd-Frank Act. The award money comes from penalties paid by financial institutions. (Securities and Exchange Commission)