September 5, 2014
The House and Senate were in recess this week.
September House Agenda
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sent a memo to House Republicans this week laying out the House agenda for the short (potentially only two weeks) September work session. McCarthy wrote that the House will take up two omnibus bills – one combining 14 jobs bills (including the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act) and the other combining 13 energy bills. The House will also consider a bill allowing people to keep their health insurance plan if they like it. As for the FY15 appropriations bills, the memo only said that the House will also pass a continuing resolution (CR) that will continue government operations as they are on September 30th into the new fiscal year.
A copy of the memo can be found at:
In an interview on Fox News this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was asked about the possibility of another government shutdown at the end of FY14. McConnell responded, “The only people talking about a government shutdown are the Democrats and nobody has any interest in doing that. So I think we’ll pass a clean CR which would operate the government probably into December.”
Last week, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) submitted requests for appropriations- and authorization-related anomalies to House and Senate Appropriators. OMB requested that appropriators grant extra flexibility to various federal agencies to manage the influx of Central American migrants at the border, and that Congress extend the operating authority of the Export-Import Bank, which expires on Sept 30. The list also includes a request to boost the number of visas for Afghan civilians who served as translators, an additional $22.9 million for the Veterans Affairs Office of Special Counsel, authority to create a new Urgent and Emerging Threat Fund within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and an additional $58 million to speed the development, manufacturing, and testing of Ebola drugs and two Ebola vaccine candidates.
Since a CR is the only piece of legislation with a real shot at passing before the midterm elections, it could become a vehicle for lawmakers other pet programs – border security spending, additional funding for firefighting, an extension of the Export-Import Bank, tax inversions, and reauthorization of the Internet Tax Freedom Act and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. The CR is likely to fund the government through December 11 or 12.
At a conference sponsored by the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance this week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (ATL) Frank Kendall both spoke about the next phase of the Pentagon’s latest acquisition reform effort, Better Buying Power. Better Buying Power 3.0 is expected to be unveiled this month, perhaps as early as Sept. 12, and will focus on getting proven technology in the hands of soldiers faster. Better Buying Power 1.0 and 2.0 centered on business practices and decision-making, respectively.
In Better Buying Power 3.0, Secretary Hagel said that the Pentagon will expand its use of prototyping as the DOD budget continues to tighten. DOD believes that prototyping furthers technical advances in research and development and lowers lead time in the event they go forward with production. The increased use of prototyping will also allow DOD to preserve design teams during any long periods between new product development programs.
Other new acquisition improvement initiatives in Better Buying Power 3.0 include:
- More use of modular and open systems architectures.
- Providing industry with draft requirements earlier.
- Removing obstacles to procuring commercial items.
- Improving our technology search and outreach in global markets.
In addition, Undersecretary Kendall will convene a Long-Range Research & Development Planning Program aimed at assuring US technological edge through the next several decades, and Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work is leading an effort to determine what types of new technologies could help the US military outperform adversaries of the future.
On Aug 22, DOD ATL released new “Guidelines For Creating and Maintaining a Competitive Environment for Supplies and Services in the Department of Defense.” The guidelines were developed as a result of the Better Buying Power 2.0 initiative in which seven areas were identified for achieving greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending. Area 5, entitled “Promote Effective Competition,” further identified “emphasizing competition strategies and creating and maintaining competitive environments as an opportunity for improving our competitive posture within the Department.” These guidelines are intended to complement and work in concert with the four overarching principles identified in Better Buying Power 2.0 to:1) think and not default to the “school solution;” 2) attract, train and empower acquisition professionals; 3) start with the basics – the acquisition fundamentals work; and 4) streamline decision making.
A copy of the guidelines can be found at:
The White House has chosen Google X Vice President Megan Smith as the next Federal Chief Technology Officer pending security clearances. Smith will replace Todd Park who announced last week that he is stepping down from the job by the end of the year. Google X is the company’s secretive research arm whose recent projects include the development of self-driving cars and a drone delivery program. As U.S. CTO, Smith will guide the Administration’s IT policy and initiatives.
The White House also announced that Alexander Macgillivray will be the Deputy US CTO. Macgillivray will focus on a portfolio of key priority areas for the Administration, including Internet policy, intellectual property policy, and the intersection of big data, technology, and privacy. Macgillivray is an internationally recognized expert in technology law and policy, most recently serving as General Counsel and Head of Public Policy at Twitter from 2009-2013.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced this week that the Democrat who attempted to drop out of the three-way race against Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) must remain on the ballot. Democratic nominee Chad Taylor had submitted a request to have his name removed from the ballot to clear a path for independent Greg Orman to challenge Roberts one-on-one. Kobach, a Republican who backs Roberts, said that Taylor failed to declare that he would be unable to perform the job if elected. Taylor said in a statement that he will challenge Kobach’s decision.
The House and Senate return from recess next week. The House is expected to vote on a continuing resolution as well as the jobs and energy omnibus bills mentioned in the House Majority Leader’s memo. The Senate is expected to consider a number of nominations as well as take up a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.