House conservatives revive efforts to cut federal pay raises, create an ‘at will’ workforce

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  • A group of conservative lawmakers has proposed eliminating all automatic pay raises for federal employees and increasing the amount they contribute to their retirement. Another proposal in the Republican Study Committee’s 2019 budget proposal to Congress would make all federal employees “at will” employees, meaning they could be fired at any time for cause. Specifically, the 150-member caucus suggests following the reform undertaken by the  Veterans Affairs Department, which allows the VA secretary to remove, demote, or suspend VA employees for poor performance or misconduct. (RSC)
  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has told lawmakers he will cooperate with investigators on 10 pending inquires into agency spending and ethics. Pruitt testified Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce and Appropriations Committees. Despite pressure from lawmakers,  Pruitt said he would not be stepping down. Last week, the Government Accountabilty Office found EPA violated federal spending laws when it built a soundproof booth in Pruitt’s office. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Census Bureau has engaged local leaders in Rhode Island as part of its effort to increase the count of certain slices of the population in the 2020 Census. The  bureau’s top manager, Ron Jarmin, conducted a workshop in Providence. That is where the bureau is conducting its final major field test before the 2020 headcount. Working with the mayor, the Rhode Island secretary of state, and the Urban League, the workshop used design thinking to devise accurate counting methods for very young children, as well as 16- to 24-year-old African-American males. (Census)
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) named 68 new actions that agencies could take to reduce duplicate programs and processes, and possibly find new cost savings. GAO said agencies have made some progress over the past eight years. It said 52 percent of GAO’s 724 recommendations have been addressed, but Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said agencies need more help from Congress to address the remaining 42 percent of actions.  (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration’s next generation telecommunications contract has earned  a “best-in-class” designation. The Office of Management and Budget said the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract is now a preferred government-wide contract that lets agencies take advantage of the government’s buying power. Agencies are in the midst of moving to EIS over the next three years for innovative voice, video and data services. (GSA)
  • Defense Secretary James Mattis said the government is likely to pursue criminal charges in a case involving tens of millions of dollars in potential fraud.  Government audits have identified more than $50 million  in unsubstantiated contract payments for programs that were susposed to help build intelligence capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, some of those payments went to buy luxury vehicles and pay six-figure salaries for  “significant others”  working as  executive assistants for the program’s main subcontractor, New Century Consulting.  Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo.) told Mathis at a Senate hearing Thursday that “somebody’s head has got to roll.” (ABC News)
  • The Senate has confirmed Paul Lawrence to be undersecretary for benefits at the Veterans Affairs Department . That will give the Veterans Benefits Administration its first permanent leader in nearly three years. The Senate also confirmed Joseph Falvey to serve on the Board of Veterans Appeals., whose judges serve 15-year terms. (Senate .gov)
  • Effective immediately, the Air Force said all active-duty airmen no longer have to complete the distance learning programs known as Course 14 and Course 15 before attending non-commissioned officer or senior NCO academies. Instead, active-duty airmen will now complete their enlisted professional military education in-residence. The distance-learning program focused on everything from commuication skills to organizational management. But a review of of the program  found its courses were full of errors and had testing backlogs. (Air Force).
  • A bill to reauthorize the State Department would reinstate a cyber diplomacy office at the agency.  Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson removed the Coordinator for Cyber Issues position and downgraded the office after former Cyber Coordinator Chris Painter stepped down last July.  The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), said elevating the department’s cyber office would make the agency more secure. (House.gov)
  • The top 50 contractors are no better in protecting email from cyber threats, than the agencies they serve. The Global Cyber Alliance tested the domains of the top 50 IT contractors and found they are well behind in applying security tools to protect against malware, phishing and other threats often delivered by email.  Of the 50 vendors tested, 27 did not have the domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (D-MARC) protocol in place. Another 21 contractors had DMARC in place, but were not monitoring email threats. This survey showed the top vendors are behind the federal government’s use of DMARC, which is at 68 percent of all domains.   (Globalcyberalliance.org)