Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro had a few choice words for contractors. The Department of the Navy is putting its contractors on notice to deliver ships, aircraft and submarines on time and on budget. Del Toro said it is time for contractors to spend more money on the future. “You can’t be asking for the American taxpayer to make even greater public investments while you continue, in some cases, to goose your stock prices through stock buybacks, deferring promised capital investments,” Del Toro said. Speaking yesterday in San Diego at AFCEA West, the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association International, Del Toro also said the Navy and its partners need to reduce costs, optimize systems, and improve interoperability.

A Department of Veterans Affairs watchdog is warning that hundreds of thousands of veterans are at risk of mix-ups with their prescription medications. VA’s Office of Inspector General said it is an issue between the department’s new and legacy Electronic Health Records (EHR). If veterans seek treatment at one of five sites using the department’s new Oracle-Cerner EHR, then receive care at a VA site using its legacy Vista EHR, their medication information may be incorrect. That runs the risk of VA clinicians filling scripts for medicine that conflict with what veterans are already taking or giving them medicine they are allergic to. “While VA is taking efforts to reduce this potential, we remain concerned that patients have not been informed of their individual risks,” VA deputy IG David Case said.

Members of the National Guard and Reserve are not receiving special pay and their advocates want to know why. The National Guard Association is asking Congress to investigate the Pentagon’s delay of special duty and incentive pay for the Guard and Reserve. Retired Maj. Gen. Francis McGinn, president of the National Guard Association, said the Defense Department continues to postpone implementation of Guard and Reserve special-pay parity. The fiscal 2022 defense bill required the Pentagon to submit a report laying out the details of implementation. McGinn said the final report did not comply with the congressional request and did not include an implementation plan.

Funding and fragmentation have been major barriers for Federal Executive Boards for decades. Those FEBs are now on the verge of a transformation, as they look to expand their reach with more consistent funding under the Office of Personnel Management. FEBs help coordinate regional agencies and elevate the voices of federal employees working across the country. The program, which has been around since 1961, just updated its strategic plan. But “we don’t have a prescriptive roadmap of, ‘here’s how we’re going to do this.’ I think that in 2024 and 2025, we’re going to pilot various ways of what this can look like,” said OPM Deputy Associate Director for FEBs Kelly DeGraff. A couple options on the table right now are adding more boards, or extending the ones that already exist.

The General Services Administration is facing new scrutiny about its purchase of prohibited telecommunications technology from China. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said she is concerned about a recent GSA inspector general report that found GSA bought 150 videoconference cameras manufactured in China, which is a violation of the Trade Agreements Act. She said given GSA’s role as a major federal buyer of technology, the report raises even more questions about the agency’s oversight processes. The chairwoman of the Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, IT and Government Innovation would like answers and documents from GSA by February 23. Mace is holding a hearing on February 29.

The Pentagon is shifting how it thinks about improving military infrastructure. A new strategy for resilient and healthy defense communities, released yesterday, will address the Pentagon’s outdated installations to improve service members’ quality of life. The Pentagon plans to create livability standards, which will be implemented into its policies and the Unified Facilities Criteria system. It will inform the department’s infrastructure planning, design, construction and modernization efforts. The strategy is a starting point, from which the department will develop an implementation plan.

The Social Security Administration is taking a new approach to try to reduce improper payments. The agency is proposing to now automate its payroll information system. Incorrect payroll data is often a reason behind overpayments made to Social Security recipients, SSA said. The agency is hoping an automated system will reduce manual reporting errors, and by extension, minimize improper payments. Public comments on SSA’s proposed rule are due by April 15.

The future of the Postal Service depends on packages — a lot of them, according to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. DeJoy told Federal News Network that USPS plans to rollout new products and services, tailored to small and medium-sized businesses. A key tenet of his 10-year reform plan, now in its third year, is to capture a bigger piece of the package business from private-sector companies like UPS, FedEx and Amazon. USPS needs new sources of revenue, because mail volume fell by 42% between 2007 and 2020. DeJoy said that trend is expected to continue.

NASA and Texas A&M University are collaborating on a new facility to enable human spaceflight research and development within the commercial space economy. The 240-acre Exploration Park will be located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The lease agreement will let the A&M system and others use the land at NASA Johnson to create facilities for a collaborative development environment to increase commercial access and competitiveness in the space and aerospace industries. This agreement is part of a long history of collaboration between NASA and the university, which has been a space grant university since 1989.


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