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POTUS pick to lead OPM accused of ‘lacking commitment to federal merit system’

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  • Four government oversight groups are raising concerns with the president’s latest pick to lead the Office of Personnel Management. The groups say OPM nominee John Gibbs doesn’t have the experience or qualifications to lead the agency. They say Gibbs’ previous statements run contrary to OPM’s mission as an independent advocate of merit-system principles. Gibbs will appear before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for his nomination hearing today. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and the Government Accountability Project are among the groups that expressed concerns to committee leadership.
  • One of Washington, D.C.’s industry experts is leaving the Professional Services Council. Alan Chvotkin, one of the most knowledge experts in the federal acquisition community, is exiting his current role with the Professional Services Council at the end of 2020. Chvotkin, the executive vice president and counsel at PSC, confirmed that after 19 years with the industry association he will be moving on as of Dec. 31. PSC and Chvotkin couldn’t agree to terms of a new contract. PSC will hire two executives to replace Chvotkin: One will focus on Congressional affairs and the other will focus on acquisition policy issues. (Federal News Network)
  • PSC members say end-of-fiscal-year contracting is slower than usual. A confluence of factors is causing the weaker-than-expected contracting. They have the dual need to assert they aren’t using Chinese telecom gear, and that their cybersecurity meets minimum standards. Those half-jelled policies might be slowing things down, and Council CEO David Berteau wondered if contracting officers are distracted by teleworking and uncertainty over dollars remaining. With 22 days left in the year, the next question is how long the continuing resolution for 2021 will be?
  • The last major piece to getting the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) ready for broad scale use should be final by November. Katie Arrington, the Defense Department’s Chief Information Security Officer for Acquisition and Sustainment, spoke at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit yesterday and said that the Defense acquisition rule has moved through the process more quickly than almost any other regulation. She said the final rule will implement a standard DoD-wide methodology for assessing contractor compliance with security requirements, and it will help institutionalize CMMC across the department.
  • Civilian federal employees should see the first signs of the president’s payroll tax deferral next week. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service said the deferral is effective with the end of the current pay period on Sept. 12. Payday for most civilian employees falls on or around Sept. 18, while payday for the military is Sept. 15. Military officials are warning troops to hang on to the savings they earn for the rest of the year, so they’re prepared to repay them next January. (Federal News Network)
  • There is more movement toward filling the vacant leadership roles in the Pentagon’s personnel office. The president nominated Matthew Shipley to be assistant secretary of Defense for readiness. Shipley is currently the deputy assistant secretary for force readiness, and prior to that, worked as an aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The announcement came a month after the White House announced a nominee for the principal deputy undersecretary position. The personnel & readiness office has had chronic vacancies in its Senate-confirmed ranks for the past two administrations. At one point earlier this year, four out of five of its top political positions were held by acting officials.
  • The Air Force has awarded a more than $13 billion contract to upgrade the ground-based portion of the nation’s nuclear weapons portfolio. The award to Northrop Grumman covers the first eight years of work to replace the aging Minuteman 3 missile system. The full upgrade, which the Air Force calls the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent system, is expected to cost at least $85 billion over its lifespan. (Federal News Network)
  • The House Oversight and Reform Committee is launching its own investigation into recent issues at Fort Hood, Texas. Since August 2019, four service members have gone missing from the base and were found dead. About 130 felonies are committed annually on the installation. The committee is seeking documents and information from the Army on the incidents to determine if there may be underlying issues with leadership, morale and discipline. Last week, Maj. Gen. John Richardson IV took over as the new commander of Fort Hood.
  • The Air Force will now allow unit commanders or civilian directors to grant emergency leave to airmen and space professionals. Emergency leave can be given for a death in the family, serious medical condition of a family member or for any other hardship the commander deems appropriate. The new authority eliminates steps to get emergency leave approved, so employees can get to their families faster. The authority will also prevent airmen from going into unfavorable leave status in difficult times. Emergency leave can only be granted once in a service member’s career and only last for up to 14 consecutive days.
  • The Cyberspace Solarium Commission called for a shakeup in the federal cyber workforce. The commission said more than one in three federal cyber jobs is open, and is trying to find ways to fill them faster. The bipartisan panel recommended agencies keep reskilling current federal employees to fill in-demand cyber jobs and supporting apprenticeship opportunities to recruit new talent. The commission also recommends standing up a federal cyber service to provide agile hiring authorities and other personnel management tools.
  • Key lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee said they are cautiously optimistic that legislators and the White House can come to an agreement to create a national cyber director. The position was opposed by the Trump administration earlier this year. However, House Armed Services Emerging Threats Subcommittee Chairman Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) said he has had some productive talks with the White House chief of staff on the issue. The cyber director position would serve as the principal adviser to the president on cybersecurity strategy and policy. The role would also consult with federal departments to develop the U.S. national cyber strategy and supervise its implementation. (Federal News Network)
  • The IRS is mailing letters to nearly 9 million Americans, who may be eligible for an Economic Impact Payment under the CARES Act, but have not yet registered to claim one. The agency is targeting individuals, who don’t normally file federal income tax returns and have not done so for 2018 or 2019. Non-filers have until Oct. 15 to claim the Economic Impact Payment or they can claim it as a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return next year.
  • A bipartisan bill seeks to incentivize electric vehicle usage at agencies. The Charging Helps Agencies Realize General Efficiencies or CHARGE Act, would allow federal employees to use Fleet Services Cards issued by the General Services Administration to pay for recharging electric vehicles. The bill’s sponsors, Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), said federal employees are limited right now to charging electric vehicles at agency garages. A Senate version of the bill introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) passed last November.

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