Taxpayer advocate reports IRS is still unfairly targeting those in poverty

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In today’s Federal Newscast:

  • The National Taxpayer Advocate reported low-income Americans are still being targeted by private debt collectors hired by the IRS.  Nina Olsonsaid said a review of  returns of approximately 4,100 taxpayers who made payments to the IRS after their debts were assigned to collectors showed 19 percent were below the federal poverty level. A year ago, Olson recommended the IRS not pursue private collections from taxpayers who have an income less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level. The reasoning was those who cannot afford representation in IRS disputes are vulnerable to overreaching by the IRS.  Olson works within the IRS as an advocate for the American taxpayer.   (Taxpayer Advocate)
  • The House of Representatives shot down another attempt to invoke the Holman Rule, an antiquated law that was recently reborn to allow the targeting of individual federal employees. This time it was Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) who wanted to cut the salary of Mark Gabriel, the top leader at the Western Area Power Administration, to $1 annually.  Gabriel has been criticized for his handling of embezzlement within the administration, for alleged whistleblower reprisals and for spurning congressional demands for documents and testimony. There was heated debate over Gosar’s amendment to a fiscal 2019 spending package, but it was eventually voted down.  (Federal News Radio)
  • A group of House Democrats has urged the FBI and Justice Department to open a criminal investigation of Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt. Pruitt already is the subject of more than a dozen federal ethics and spending inquiries. The Democrats, including Reps. Don Beyer and Jerry Connolly of Virginia, as well as Jamie Raskin of Maryland asked whether Pruitt sought to use his influence in directing an EPA aide to set up a meeting with Chick-Fil-A executives regarding his wife’s becoming a franchisee. They also contend Pruitt sought to use his influence to get his wife a job at a New York nonprofit. (Don Beyer)
  • The House has passed a package of appropriations bills on military construction, energy and Veterans Affairs programs. The Veterans Affairs Department is on track to get a $5 billion boost over 2018’s budget. The House-passed measure also includes $1 billion to continue to the current VA Choice Program, as well as a $15 billion dollar rescission package that makes cuts to some federal programs.(Federal News Radio)
  • The Trump administration has reached a settlement with the Chinese telecom giant ZTE over a ban on its products. Under the settlement, ZTE would pay $1.4 billion to get off the Commerce Department’s Denied Persons List, and then submit to 10 years of supply chain monitoring to keep away from U.S. export control violations. But a bipartisan group of lawmakers does not like the agreement, and the group will attach a provision to the Defense Authorization bill reversing the settlement and re-instating the ban.  Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), called the deal “a loser for American security and a loser for American workers.” (Nextgov)
  • A former CIA officer was convicted of espionage for sending classified documents to a Chinese agent. Kevin Patrick Mallory worked both as a CIA covert case officer and as an intelligence officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency before his arrest in 2017.  He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison when sentenced on Sept. 21. (Justice)
  • The Air Force announced the arrest of  one of its most-wanted fugitives: Capt. William Howard Hughes, who deserted the service 35 years ago. Hughes was sent on a temporary duty assignment to Europe in 1983 – but never showed up and hadn’t been seen since. That is until the State Department turned up a fraudulent passport Hughes obtained under a false name.   As it turns out, Hughes had been living in California the whole time, under an assumed identity. He told investigators he had been depressed about being in the Air Force, so he cleaned out his bank account and left. (Air Force)
  • The Air Force said it has transferred cyber responsibiltities from Air Force Space Command to the Air Combat Command. The service hopes the move will drive faster decisions in aligning cyber with intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance by having them under the same command. The realignment includes the 24th Air Force and subordinate units. (Air Force)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department has opened a third call center to deal with increased demand on the Veterans Crisis Line. The crisis line provides suicide prevention services to veterans. The new center will be in Topeka, Kansas.  Since VA opened its first crisis call center in 2007, it has grown to 650 employees and has received more than 3.5  million calls. (VA)
  • The General Services Administration (GSA) said it will soon be looking for another senior IT executive. GSA’s chief information security officer, Kurt Garbars, is retiring from government and 17 years at the agency. Sources confirm Garbars will be replaced by Bo Berlas on an interim basis until the agency hires a permanent CISO. During his career, Garbars has led the Cloud Computing Security Working Group under the Federal CIO Council and created the lightweight ATO process for cloud services. Berlas has been with GSA since 2002, first as a senior IT security specialist and since 2013 the director of security engineering.  (Federal News Radio advisory)