Trump’s pick to take over CIA faces powerful skeptic in the Senate

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  • President Trump’s pick to lead the CIA faces at least one powerful skeptic in the U.S. Senate. John McCain (R-Ariz), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Gina Haspell needs to explain the “nature and extent” of her involvement in the agency’s enhanced interrogation program. Haspell is a career CIA officer, currently the agency’s deputy director, and at one point ran a detention facility in Thailand where harsh interrogation techniques were allegedly used. McCain called the torture of U.S. detainees “one of the darkest chapters” in American history. (Sen. John McCain)
  • The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board could add two more members. President Trump announced plans to nominate Ed Felten and Jane Nitze as members. Currently the PCLOB has one member instead of the usual four. Felten is a former deputy CTO and Nitze is a former attorney for the Office of Legal Counsel. The President nominated Adam Klein to be the chairman of the privacy board in August. (White House)
  • Brett Markham will lead the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s west branch and serve as the deputy associate director for operations. Markham was appointed by current NGA director Robert Cardillo. Before his appointment, he was the director of analytic operations at NGA. He also served 28 years in the Navy. (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency)
  • The president’s nominees to serve at the Merit Systems Protection Board would restore a quorum to the agency, but they wouldn’t completely fill the three-member board. Current MSPB Vice Chairman Mark Robbins has been serving in holdover capacity since March 1. He’ll leave the agency if and when the Senate confirms Dennis Kirk to be the board’s chairman. President Trump also nominated Andrew Maunz to serve as an MSPB board member. With Robbins gone and Kirk and Maunz as new members, one spot would remain open. (White House)
  • The man who’s been leading NASA in an acting capacity since President Trump took over is leaving. Spaceflight Now reported Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s longest-serving interim administrator, said he’ll be retiring at the end of April. The space agency is still without a permanent leader as the Senate has yet to vote on Trump’s nominee, Congressman Jim Bridenstine. (Spaceflight Now)
  • President Donald Trump revisits the idea of standing up a new military branch focused on space. He told Marines at a San Diego base, he’s considering “a space force” equivalent to the Air Force, Army, and Navy. A proposal for it was included in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, but the language didn’t make it to the final version. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson have spoken out creating a Space Corps. (Federal News Radio)
  • There was an uptick in Freedom of Information Act requests last year, more than 800,000. To process them, senators like Chuck Grassley want agencies to be more efficient. He suggests posting more documents online once they’re disclosed through FOIA requests. Melanie Ann Pustay, director the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy says most agencies’ FOIA offices don’t have to manpower to do that though. Under the 2016 FOIA Improvement Act, agencies must post documents online once they’ve been requested t hrough FOIA three or more times. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Air Force is cutting back on its public outreach. The service is blocking access to media embeds, interviews and base visits, according to a memo obtained by Defense News. Additionally, public affairs officials and commanders down to the wing level will go through new training on protecting sensitive information. (Defense News)
  • OMB kicks off the IT modernization review process. The Technology Modernization Fund Board met for the first time and reviewed three potential projects to receive money from the central fund. The seven-person board analyzes three proposals to confirm their evaluation process and operational protocols. The board is accepting agency submissions and will continue to evaluate proposals in order to provide recommendations for projects once the governmentwide fund is appropriated by Congress. The Trump administration requested $228 million in fiscal 2018 and another $210 million for next year. (Federal News Radio)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to move some parts of the Bureau of Land Management headquarters and other sub components to a small community in the western U.S. Zinke said he wants entry-level employees to work and live in a place with a low cost of living. The president’s 2019 budget proposal includes nearly $18 million  to reorganize the department and relocate some sub-agency headquarters. (Federal News Radio)
  • New Census Bureau projections have big long term implications for agency policies. Census projects a nation that continues to grow in population, but older and more racially diverse. By 2030 every baby boomer will be older than 65, making 20 percent of the population of retirement age. They’ll outnumber children for the first time. But then they’ll die in large numbers, slowing the overall growth rate. The question is whether Social Security and the health system will be able to cope. (U.S. Census Bureau)