New bill would loosen restrictions on TSP withdrawals

Federal employees and retirees may soon see more flexibility in the way their Thrift Savings Plan accounts function. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee passed the TSP Modernization Act of 2017, along with a handful of other bills that could soon affect the lives and careers of the federal workforce.

The TSP Modernization Act of 2017 would change the way federal employees and retirees can make withdrawals from their TSP accounts. It would allow feds to make multiple age-based withdrawals while employed, and would leave them eligible to make partial withdrawals after retirement.

Currently, federal employees can make one age-based withdrawal from TSP while they are employed, which would disqualify them from making partial withdrawals after retirement. Alternately, retirees who never made age-based withdrawals can make one partial withdrawal after retiring, but then have to move to full withdrawal options.

In addition, this bill would eliminate the withdrawal election deadline, allowing retirees to make changes to the amount and frequency of their withdrawals whenever they wish, rather than once per year.

The National Treasury Employees Union gave its support to this bill, sending a letter to the committee members urging its passage.

“The rules for how federal employees can manage their accounts have not kept pace with the modern workforce, and these changes would make the TSP a more attractive and user-friendly choice for employees and retirees,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.

Rulemaking

The committee also passed the Regulatory Predictability for Business Growth Act of 2017. This bill would define the term “longstanding interpretative rule” to mean an interpretative rule that has been in place for more than one year.

Any longstanding interpretative rules would be required to follow procedures regarding the general notice of proposed rulemaking, comment and publication.

Official Time

H.R. 1293, the House’s bill to require the Office of Personnel Management to annually report to Congress on the use of official time, made its debut in the Senate. It was the only bill that received a voice vote; the rest were passed as a block by the committee.

Official time is the time spent by federal employees conducting union business while on the clock at their agency.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) was the only “no” vote, citing the benefits of official time to unionized federal employees.

DHS

A few of the other bills passed by the committee deal directly with the Homeland Security Department, particularly with its acquisitions. DHS’ acquisition programs have struggled recently, with a number of programs experiencing slipping on scheduling and cost overruns, and one major $1.5 billion agile services contract having to be dismissed because it was too broken to repair.

The DHS Acquisition Review Board Act of 2017 would address those issues by creating an acquisition review board at the department. The board would review major acquisition programs and best practices within the department, and would seek to strengthen accountability and uniformity in the acquisition review process.

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The DHS Undersecretary for Management would serve as chairperson. Currently, Chip Fulghum is acting in that capacity; no one has been permanently appointed to the position yet. The leaders of at least two DHS components, or their designated representatives, would also serve on the board.

The board would convene whenever a major acquisition program needs authorization, is in breach, or requires additional review for whatever reason. It would determine if the proposed acquisition meets requirements, would oversee the strategy, resources, management and accountability of the projects, review any documentations. In addition, it would report to Congress on major approvals.

Following that line of thought, the Reducing DHS Acquisition Cost Growth Act would also require DHS to notify Congress any time there is a breach in a major acquisition program. In addition to notifying Congress, DHS would also have to submit a remediation plan and review corrective actions whenever a program fails to meet costs, schedule or performance thresholds.

The Border Enforcement Security Task Force Reauthorization Act of 2017, in addition to reauthorizing the task force, requires annual reports to Congress on effectiveness and information-sharing. It originally included an amendment that would require DHS to institute a bug-bounty, but Hassan withdrew it, saying she would resubmit it later as a standalone bill.

Other bills

The Procurement Fraud Prevention Act requires the General Services Administration to ensure that small businesses receive information about federal procurement technical assistance services provided by the Small Business Administration.

The Strengthening the Department of Homeland Security Secure Mail Initiative Act allows federal employees to choose to use the Hold for Pickup or Signature Confirmation services when receiving secure mail through the Postal Service.

H.R. 1117 would require the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to submit a report on how it will provide consistent guidance to grant applicants during a disaster, record maintenance and transfer during staff transitions, and assistance to applicants and grantees.

The FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act of 2017 would direct FEMA to continue modernizing its grant systems, including creating an online interface, elimination of duplicative benefits, and information sharing systems.

The Federal Register Printing Savings Act of 2017 would stop the Government Publishing Office from providing lawmakers or federal offices with printed copies of the Federal Register unless a particular issue or yearlong subscription was specifically requested.

The Federal Agency Mail Management Act would require GSA to provide guidance and assistance for mail processing.