Trump administration wants Space Force up and running by 2020

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  • The Pentagon officially announced its plans to establish a sixth branch of the military focused on space. The Department of Defense wants to establish the Space Corps by 2020 and will create a new U.S. Space Command as a first step toward standing up the service. The Pentagon will still need Congress’ approval to create the new branch. (Department of Defense)
  • The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental is getting rebranded. The organization, tasked with working with nontraditional defense companies to develop new technologies, is dropping the word “experimental” from its name. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the name change reflects the office’s permanence within the Defense Department. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Army has temporarily stopped discharging soldiers who joined the military as non-U.S. citizens. According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, at least for now, the Army has stopped processing involuntary separations for soldiers who joined under a program called Military Accessions Vital to National Security. The Army said it’s imposing the pause, which could impact hundreds of soldiers, so it can review its discharge process. Some of the troops caught up in that process have sued the Pentagon, claiming they were given no legitimate reason for being involuntarily separated. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department will not have all of its new community care networks and contracts up and running all at once across the country. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) wrote to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to describe his frustrations with the agency’s timelines for implementing pieces of the new VA MISSION Act. Tester said VA’s timelines will create confusion for community providers. They’ll have to work with different networks and third-party administrators at different points throughout the year as the agency gets contracts up and running. (Senate Veterans Affairs Committee)
  • The American Federation of Government Employees filed a grievance with VA over its implementation of the president’s official time executive order. AFGE said implementation of the executive order has been inconsistent at different medical centers and regional offices. The union also said its existing collective bargaining agreement still stands, because both it and VA agreed to extend it in March. (Federal News Radio)
  • There’s more bad news for the Postal Service, as it posts a $1.5 billion net loss for its third quarter. That’s despite earning $17.1 billion in revenue, a 2.4 percent increase from last year. USPS’ chief financial officer said greater competition in package delivery could hurt its ability to see more double-digit growth. This comes as the White House’s Postal Task Force plans to brief President Donald Trump with its recommendations Friday. (Federal News Radio)
  • An Internal Revenue Service employee pleaded guilty to identity theft. Stephanie Parker admitted to authorities that she used taxpayers’ Social Security numbers to file false returns and send the money to her friends’ bank accounts. She faces a mandatory sentence of two years in prison, as well as a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. (Department of Justice)
  • Acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler called on employees to cooperate with the agency’s inspector general’s audits. In an all-staff email, Wheeler reminded employees they don’t need permission from their manager to report wrongdoing to the IG’s office. The Office of Inspector General is expected to release three reports based on audits tied to former Administrator Scott Pruitt later this month. Those reports will look at Pruitt’s spending on official travel and around-the-clock security. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Agriculture Department is continuing its aggressive reorganization efforts with Secretary Sonny Perdue announcing plans to move two sub-agencies out of the D.C. metro area. Perdue said by the end of 2019 about 700 employees working for the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture will be relocated outside the D.C. area. It’s unclear how many employees will be effected out of the 700 that work for the two organizations. No employees will be involuntarily separated and USDA wants to offer early retirement incentives. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Management and Budget offered a progress report on its IT modernization strategy. OMB completed 37 of 52 tasks under the IT modernization strategy over the last nine months. And federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent said the remaining 15 will be completed by the end of calendar year 2018. Kent said completing the tasks is the first step toward creating the next set of initiatives around cybersecurity, IT modernization and improving citizen services. Those next initiatives include OMB’s new policies around cloud security and protecting high value assets, as well as a zero trust network pilot.