Senate Democrats target wasteful spending by political appointees

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  • Four Democratic senators have introduced a bill that would crack down on wasteful spending by political appointees. Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) have sponsored the Executive Branch Waste and Fraud Recovery Act. The bill would require agency leaders to repay expenditures deemed inappropriate by their inspectors general. The senators said the proposed law was prompted by reports of expensive first-class flights taken by former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and former Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt. (Sen. Carper)
  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has told agencies to fully comply with the federal district court’s recent ruling on the president’s executive orders. OPM Director Jeff Pon said agencies should start to revoke the provisions a judge recently invalidated. The rest of the president’s executive orders on official time, collective bargaining, and employee removals still stand. OPM said it is working with the Justice Department on next steps for litigation. (Federal News Radio)
  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee leadership has demanded answers from the Homeland Security Department Inspector General about its awareness and role in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s investigation into its former chief human capital officer. Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill  (D-Mo.) said the DHS IG received 14 complaints over the past five years that reference the former FEMA Human Resources director. They said they want to know how far back the complaints go and how the agency’s IG handles sexual misconduct complaints. (HSGAC/Senate)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced plans to form 12 “unified regions” as part of the department’s reorganization efforts. Interior said it doesn’t have immediate plans to move employees, nor is it making reprogramming changes. Zinke tapped Interior’s Senior Executive Service members to help stand up new leadership teams for each of the 12 regions and agency bureaus. Zinke described the SES teams as the *architects* of Interior’s reorganization efforts. (Federal News Radio)
  • Army Secretary Mark Esper said his service has its work cut out for it as it grows its active duty force to 500,000. The Pentagon has estimated only about 30 percent of all 17-to-24-year-olds actually qualify for military service. Those numbers, it said, are kept down by things like high private sector employment rates and even obesity, which impede efforts to meet the new workforce goal. Esper said the Army is looking at everything from cleaning up recruiting storefronts to moving its recruiting locations. He said a new recruiting plan will be unveiled in September. (Federal News Radio)
  • A Hawaii-based soldier has pleaded guilty for trying to help the Islamic State.  Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang admitted in court that he gave classified information, along with a drone designed to track U.S. troops, to undercover agents who were posing as ISIS members. Prosecutors say he also used his military knowledge to record training videos for the terrorist group, and suggested he would launch a suicide attack at Schofield Barracks near Honolulu. Kang faces 25 years in prison under the plea agreement. (Federal News Radio)
  • The government’s print shop has reached a milestone in its online promotion of  wonky publications. The Government Publishing Office said it has reached 1 million viewers of its Book Talk web site  launched in 2010. The site has featured more than 400 new titles from GPO,.and history seems like the most popular topic. An inside story of the Cuban Missile Crisis got the most views. Books about the Battle of Gettysburg and the underground railroad also made the top 10. (Gov. Book Talk)
  • The Justice Department has accused a former postal employee of participating in a tax refund fraud scheme. According to the indictment, Demetrius Jones of Phenix City, Alabama, was part of a group that used stolen identities to file for tax returns. The group then mailed the refund checks to addresses Jones’s postal route. The group gave Jones a fee for him to deliver the checks. If convicted, Jones faces 20 years in prison for each count of mail fraud, and a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft. (Dept. of Justice)
  • Oracle has continued to turn up the heat on the Defense Department’s cloud procurement called JEDI. The Pentagon’s $10 billion dollar single award cloud procurement vehicle faces another protest before the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Oracle filed its second complaint last Thursday after DoD released an amendment to the cloud solicitation. The supplemental protest by Oracle is based on new things they are seeing in the amendments DoD issued. GAO expects DoD to file its first brief about Oracle’s initial protest by September 5th.  GAO has 100 days to decide the second protest, but expects to make a ruling by November 14th, which corresponds to Oracle’s first complaint. (GAO)