In search of a quorum, hearings for MSPB nominees are set to begin

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  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has announced a long-awaited nomination hearing for new members to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).  To fill the vacancies, President Donald Trump nominated Dennis Kirk as MSPB chairman, Julia Clark and Andrew Mauntz.  As the agency that listens to civil service appeals, it has lacked a quorum to do most business since January 2017.  (Senate HSGAC)
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has offered a few more details about the White House decision to change the appointment process for administrative law judges. OPM said agency heads can begin making appointments immediately. It said incumbent judges will remain in the competitive service as long as they remain in their positions. But OPM also said it will end its current register of qualified candidates, and notify those on the list that their candidacy has been terminated.  (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) promoted the idea of creating a new agency for inspectors general. Speaking at a meeting of IGs on Wednesday, Heitkamp said she supports creating an independent agency for federal oversight. She and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) have expressed frustration with the lack of permanent IGs at 13 different agencies. Johnson also proposed reducing the number of political appointees who need Senate confirmation in order to fast-track IG nominations.  (Federal News Radio)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler gave his staff a first glimpse of his priorities. In an address to employees Wednesday, Wheeler said he wants to improve the agency’s communication of environmental risks to stakeholders. He also expressed a desire to continue the Trump administration’s mission of cleaning up superfund sites and reducing regulatory overreach. Wheeler takes over for Scott Pruitt, who resigned as EPA administrator last week amid mounting ethics scandals. (Federal News Radio/C-Span)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department (VA)lost another top executive. VA said its chief human capital officer, Peter Shelby, has left the department to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Shelby served as the agency’s assistant secretary for human resources and administration for a little over a year. Shelby’s departure means VA has at least seven top leadership positions that are vacant or are being managed acting supervisors. (Federal News Radio)
  • Army leaders approved a new fitness test designed to better prepare soldiers for combat and reduce injuries. Beginning October 2020 all soldiers will take the test, comprised of six events, including strength deadlift, hand release pushups and a 2-mile run. (Defense.gov)
  • The Navy said it is taking steps to ease up on its hair grooming standards for female sailors. Women will now be allowed to wear their hair in ponytails or braids. Previous rules required them to tie their hair into tightly-wrapped buns whenever they were wearing a uniform. The regulations were announced Wednesday, and go into effect immediately. There are exceptions: commanders are still allowed to put restrictions on hairstyles if they pose potential safety problems. (U.S. Navy)
  • Documents on a U.S. military drone have been found for sale on the dark web. The intelligence firm Recorded Future reported its analysis showing documents related to the MQ-9 aircraft were offered for sale by an English-speaking hacker, who claimed to have the ability to export controlled documents. The company said it was able to engage the hacker and confirm the documents were real. Then, the same hacker produced data about the M-1 Abrams tank. Recorded Future says the hacker used a well-known vulnerability in NetGear routers. (Recorded Future)
  • Walter Copan, under-secretary of Commerce and director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), said NIST is working on developing a trustworthy, understandable framework around artificial intelligence (AI). Pushing back on the administration’s position that it’s too early to think about regulating AI, Copan said AI is already here. He said government needs to coordinate with the private sector and academia to ensure an open and transparent process in developing standards. (Politico)
  • The Commerce Department, the federal chief information officer and the Office of Science and Technology Policy released the first of three requests for comments to help inform the long-term strategy for managing federal data as an asset. The White House made improving data management a central theme of the President’s Management Agenda. The goal owners said they want comments around four main areas: enterprise governance, access, use and augmentation, decision-making and accountability and commercialization, innovation and public use. Comments are due by July 27. (Federal Register)
  • The General Services Administration (GSA) said it has a new map of federal office buildings across the country. The geographic information system map uses Federal Real Property Profile data to show where agencies have under-utilized property. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said the map will help agencies decide where to shutter unused offices. Under an Obama-administration memo, agencies have been directed to shrink their real estate footprints. (GSA)