*** A group of Democratic senators asked Social Security Administration Commissioner Andrew Saul to restore telework benefits for agency employees. In a Dec. 9 letter led by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), lawmakers said they did not believe that new management prerogatives in the recently inked union contract justify "management's unilateral decision to rescind telework entirely for the 12,000 affected employees." The senators added, "we are concerned that SSA is not providing sufficient time for workers to alter their arrangements to account for this policy change."
*** Regulations.gov, the governmentwide repository for pending regulations and comments, was down for several hours on Dec. 9 because of an expired site certificate. Bloomberg reported that the security certificate, which allows user computers to verify websites, expired on Dec. 8. The Federal Trade Commission announced it was extending the comment deadline on proposed revisions to an online privacy rule by two days because of the outage.
*** The Defense Department isn't convinced that a unified health command with authority over all medical forces across the armed services makes sense right now, according to Thomas McCaffery, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. The Defense Health Agency, established in 2013 as a support agency, is still in the midst of a consolidation that includes taking over management of medical facilities while also managing the rollout of the $5.3 billion MHS Genesis electronic health record.
At a Dec. 5 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, McCaffery said there is "unanimity within the department [that] we don't believe this is the time for us to go down that path" given the current pace of change. "Our feeling is it is better to see how does DHA function with their new responsibilities before we were…to talk about you know, would you convert that or change [DHA] into an even larger…command across the Department."
McCaffery said the idea of a unified health command, which Congress asked the Pentagon to explore, is "worthwhile" to examine, "but we want to revisit that in probably the next three to four years once we have some more stability in the system."
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