Wilkie begins to assemble new leadership team at VA

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  • The new Veterans Affairs Secretary, Robert Wilkie, said several new people will be taking top-level leadership positions at VA shortly. Pamela Powers will be the department’s new chief of staff. She previously served as his chief of staff when he was DoD’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness. Chris Syrek will be VA’s deputy chief of staff after serving in the position on acting basis. Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd will be the acting assistant secretary for human resources and administration. She’ll replace Peter Shelby, who left VA earlier this summer. Former Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke will become a senior advisor at the agency. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • The State Department has seen its workforce numbers rise since Secretary Mike Pompeo lifted the agency’s hiring freeze. Between September 2017 and July 2018, it saw its total workforce increase by 500 employees. Pompeo lifted the hiring freeze less than a month after his confirmation. However, bringing political appointees on board has been more challenging. The Senate still needs to act on more than 40 nominations. The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee will hear from David Hale, the Trump administration’s pick for undersecretary for political affairs on Thursday. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Donald Trump signed the 2019 Defense Authorization Act into law Monday. The bill authorizes $700 billion in spending for the Defense Department. The bill also requires the DoD  chief management office to find ways to cut the Pentagon’s fourth estate by 25 percent. (Federal News Radio/AP)
  • Agencies must do more to protect against a growing threat from bad actors called “blended operations.” These are attacks that target software and hardware, use spear phishing and focus on cyber-physical systems.  That’s one conclusion in a new report called “Deliver Uncompromised” from the Mitre Corporation. Mitre said DoD should take the lead in doing more to secure the supply chain, and offered 15 recommendations ranging from more supply chain accountability for leadership to creating a national supply chain intelligence center. (Mitre Corporation)
  • The General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service is seeing a lot of movement in its executive ranks. Three key leaders have announced they’re leaving GSA, including Kay Ely, the assistant commissioner for the IT category. Federal News Radio confirmed that Ely announced her plans Monday to retire by Dec. 31. She will leave her assistant commissioner role on Sept. 30 to go on a 90-day detail to work with the interagency task force that is merging GSA and the Office of Personnel Management’s HR Solutions shop. Along with Ely, Dave Zvenyach and Joel Minton announced they will return to the private sector. Zvenyach led the modernization of governmentwide acquisition systems, and Minton led the login.gov program.
  • Sixteen Democratic senators are asking new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to review several major personnel actions that took place while the department was being managed by acting officials. They want him to review whether previous leadership purposefully ousted long-time career VA employees and replaced them with political appointees or White House advisers. They also questioned VA’s implementation of the president’s recent executive orders on accountability, official time and collective bargaining. Senate VA Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester and Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner were among the 16 who signed the letter. (Congressional letter)
  • Marine Corps aviation commanders are not accurately reporting aircraft readiness. A DoD Inspector General report stated nine squadron commanders did not report the present state of their aircraft readiness and were inconsistent in the time frames to report aircraft readiness. Five commanders overstated the number of capable aircraft under their command. (DoD Inspector General)
  • The Marine Corps is the latest military service to launch a bug bounty. DoD’s sixth challenge to white hat hackers officially got underway on Sunday and runs through Aug. 26. Officials said hackers filed 75 unique vulnerability reports during the program’s first day, during a launch event in Las Vegas. The “Hack the Marine Corps” program — administered by the security firm HackerOne — has paid out more than $80,000 in bug bounties so far. (Defense Digital Service/HackerOne)
  • More than a quarter million people voiced their opinions to the Census Bureau about the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census, according to a tally by the Leadership Conference Education Fund, a civil rights coalition. The deadline for public comments ended last week. Many individuals and organizations said the addition of an untested question could hurt response rates in the decennial count. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced in March that the question would be added. (Leadership Conference Education Fund).