Potential partnership between Census, USPS gets axed

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  • A potential partnership between the Census Bureau and the Postal Service has fallen apart. Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want to know why Census walked away from a pilot to have letter carriers work as enumerators during the 2020 count. They want Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to explain why he nixed the idea. Census starts its first large-scale field test this April for the 2020 count. (House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee)
  • When it comes to improving online government services, agencies find imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. USDA recently stood up Farmers.gov, a one-stop shop for its customers, after borrowing the concept from the VA’s Vets.gov. Meanwhile, the General Services Administration has also considered borrowing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ idea for an AI web assistant. USCIS launched “Emma” in 2015 to help answer people’s questions online, without investing more man-hours. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Agriculture Department is banning popular social media sites. Facebook, SnapChat and What’s App are among the more than 400 sites the Agriculture Department will block employees from visiting. USDA chief information security officer Chris Lowe wrote in an email to staff, which Federal News Radio obtained, that starting March 7 these sites will no longer be accessible to employees or contractors using government computers. USDA is banning these sites after its security operations center and inspector general found more than 200 cases of employees looking at inappropriate websites, including pornography. (Federal News Radio)
  • Veterans Affairs inspector general Michael Missal says the former VA Chief of Staff’s email was not hacked. VA Secretary David Shulkin had said his former chief of staff’s email may have been breached and listed it as one reason for why it appeared his staff authorized improper travel. The IG said VA’s email systems haven’t been compromised. Shulkin last week said he thought his former chief of staff’s email had been “spoofed” instead. The IG didn’t contradict Shulkin’s most recent statement and says it will continue to look into potential deceptive practices. (Rep. Tim Walz)
  • The State Department’s Office of the Procurement Executive may be adding some new information to its contracts. State’s IG is supposed to have access to contractor records and employees for interviews, according to the Foreign Affairs Manual. But that information hasn’t been making it’s way into contracts, leaving vendors clueless about their obligations. The IG recommended a clause to that effect be included in every contract moving forward. (Department of State Office of Inspector General)
  • The Social Security Administration found it might be looking at the wrong factors in determining whether a person deserves disability benefits. The agency commissioned a National Academies panel to look into whether how often people seek medical care correlates with disability, as defined by Social Security. That question had never been studied before. The 16-member panel said it could find no evidence that health care utilization can predict disability, but that with richer data SSA could create a new determination model. (The National Academies Press)
  • The Air Force is trying to slash red tape when it comes to buying weapons. The service stood up a new charter which broadens some of its rapid capabilities office’s authorities to larger programs. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the charter will give more power to program managers when trying new ways of buying. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Pentagon is overruling a billion dollar cloud computing agreement the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental issued just a month ago. The other transaction agreement was one of the first big tests of DoD’s new authorities to use other transaction agreements for large-scale purchases, not just prototypes. But the Pentagon determined DIUx went too far. DoD is now limiting what had been a $950 million dollar agreement with REAN Cloud to a ceiling of just $65 million. And instead of being available to the entire department, U.S. Transportation Command is the only organization that will be allowed to use it. (Federal News Radio)
  • A former defense contractor pleads guilty to illegally retaining sensitive national defense information. Weldon Marshall admitted to unlawfully retaining classified materials while he served in the Navy and later working for a military contractor. He’ll be sentenced in the Spring and faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. (Department of Justice)
  • General Stephen Townsend is taking over at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. The command is responsible for recruiting and evaluating one hundred and twenty thousand soldiers every year. Townsend takes over for General David Perkins, who is retiring after nearly 40 years of service.