Senate confirms ethics veteran and unexpected nominee Emory Rounds to head agency

  • The U.S. Senate has confirmed Emory Rounds to become the next director of the Office of Government Ethics. Rounds has worked at the agency since 2009. His nomination by President Donald Trump was a pleasant surprise for ethics experts because of the high profile clashes the office has had with Trump.  During his confirmation hearing, Rounds described the Office of Government Ethics as under-staffed, under-resourced and under-appreciated. (Senate)
  • Local union leaders said they are trying to figure out what to do with bargaining unit records as they make plans to vacate agency property. The order to leave was in response to President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on collective bargaining. The Social Security Administration told the American Federation of Government Employees to leave agency property by the end of July. One local SSA union leader said she wants to remove all bargaining unit records out of the office, but agency doesn’t want any documents with personally identifiable information, to leave the building. (Federal News Radio)

  • Prompted perhaps by the president’s executive order, the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) said the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)  has submitted a bargaining schedule and proposals after years of stalled negotiations.  Not included in the HHS proposals are 13 previously agreed-to-articles on telework, alternative work schedules and performance awards. The NTEU said if these proposals don’t make it into the final contract, the union won’t be able to bargain over them.  NTEU represents 150,000 federal employees in more than 30 departments and agencies. (Federal News Radio)

  • Scott Pruitt may have stepped down as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but investigations into his conduct while in office will continue.  The EPA’s Office of Inspector General said it will continue with several audits into how Pruitt used EPA resources. The independent EPA office is looking at Pruitt’s spending on official travel and around-the-clock security. The announcement comes after Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) added an amendment to a must-pass spending bill to keep the audits running. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will also keep going with its own investigation into Pruitt’s activities in office. (Federal News Radio)
  • The online portal used by 16 agencies to track Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests is getting a facelift. The FOIA Online portal was launched earlier this week with a new look and new tools. Despite the update, some users already said they have found some shortcomings. Comments have indicated the site is not mobile friendly and has issues with tracking existing requests. (FOIA Online)

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  • A congressional subcommittee has been created to oversee the multibillion-dollar project to replace the Veterans Affairs Department’s (VA) antiquated electronic health record (EHR) system. The VA signed a $10 billion contract with Cerner Corp. in May to overhaul its health record system and merge it with that of the Defense Department (DoD).  Lawmakers have expressed other concerns about the project because of previous failed attempts by the VA and DoD to make their systems compatible. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, asked the new Subcommittee on Technology Modernization to hold VA leaders accountable. (House Veterans Committee)

  • The Veterans Affairs Department said Genevieve Morris will lead its EHR modernization. Morris comes from Health and Human Services where she served as the  agency’s principal deputy national coordinator. (VA)
  • The Army has selected Austin, Texas as the new home of the Army Futures Command. The four-star command will lead the Army’s force modernization efforts, including identifying future threats, new technologies and weapons to meet wartime needs.  When it reaches full operating capacity in summer 2019, the headquarters will comprise about 500 personnel. The service had narrowed its list of candidates to five cities last month, but said it chose Austin because it is a hub of private-sector technology and innovation. Officials have called the restructuring the biggest reorganization of the Army’s bureaucracy in 40 years.   (Army)
  • The White House and members of House Homeland Security Committee said they are looking with more rigor into how agencies oversee the technology they buy and use. The Trump administration sent a legislative proposal to the Hill earlier this week, just as  the committee was working on its own similar legislation The administration’s proposal would give every civilian agency the same authorities Congress gave the Defense Department in 2011 to better manage its IT supply chain. The Federal IT Supply Chain Risk Management Improvement Act would do several things, including establishing a Federal IT Acquisition Security Council and a Critical IT Supply Chain Risk Evaluation Board. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House said President Donald Trump plans to pick Senate Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms James Morhard to serve as NASA’s deputy administrator. Morhard has held his current role in the Senate since 2015. Before that, he served as the staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee. If confirmed, Morhard would work alongside former congressman Jim Bridenstine,  who took office as NASA administrator in August. Some opposition awaited Morhard’s nomination due to his lack of experience in space technology. (White House)
  • The Secret Service has offered updated advice to local school districts for dealing with school shootings. Its National Threat Assessment Center published a guide for how to improve school safety, using a threat assessment model. The guide was first released in 1999 following the shootings at  Columbine High School. It helps local officials establish what the Secret Service called a framework for identifying students of concern, assessing their capacity for violence, and strategies for intervention. (Secret Service)