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Quick Hits for Nov. 13

*** The Department of Veterans Affairs rolled out a new VA.com on Veterans Day.  Adam Mazmanian's October reporting on the revamp is worth a second read. 

*** How does the Democrats’ control of the House affect the White House’s tech policy? According to Chris Liddell, it doesn’t.

“In the tech space, it’s pretty much business as normal,” the deputy chief of staff for policy coordination said Nov. 8 at an event hosted by the Washington Post. “I see that it’s very bipartisan.”

Liddell specifically pointed to the Technology Modernization Fund as a congressional priority the White House wants to push.

“I hope the new House will continue to fund things like the Modernizing Government Technology Act -- that’s an incredibly high [return on investment] project,” he said. As it stands, $150 million in funding for the TMF in fiscal year 2019 was approved by the House, but was zeroed out and its future is under negotiation in the Senate.

Most other priorities, which include federal IT modernization and external-to-government issues more broadly, will be administered through executive policy, Liddell said.

Over the next two years, he said, the administration would look to pursue its “five-to-10 year” IT modernization effort, convene private-sector companies at the White House, and focus on 5G and broadband expansion, as well as emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and quantum computing. 

*** Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) leads his Democratic challenger by roughly 1,150 votes, according to the Texas Secretary of State's latest numbers.  The deadline for "curing" provisional ballots is 5 p.m. today, while military ballots must be received by 7 p.m.

*** While the trio of workforce executive orders had key provisions overturned by a U.S. district court, acting Office of Personnel Management Director Margaret Weichert wants to make sure agencies are clear that some aspects remain in effect.

In guidance to agency heads, Weichert, who also serves as the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management, reminded agencies “to exercise their independent judgment in deciding how best to pursue these policies through collective bargaining.” Collective bargaining in the wake of the executive orders has become a heightened challenge at various agencies across government.

The still-valid provisions, Weichert wrote, include “the agency’s right to make proposals in the context of collective bargaining, including over subjects that were discussed in the executive orders, and to fashion those proposals in a manner that best reflects critical agency priorities.” 

She also stressed that “agencies must adhere to the obligation to negotiate in good faith.”

*** The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is expected to post the comment responses today regarding its proposed approach to consumer data privacy. 

The new Congress and the White House could use these principles as a guide for any future regulations over tech companies’ use of consumer data.

Abigail Slater, special assistant to the president for tech, telecom, and cyber policy at the White House National Economic Council, said at a recent event hosted by the Washington Post the White House has “a willingness to work with Congress on privacy” legislation that includes preemption. She noted, however, that doesn’t entail “a completely blank hall pass.” 

“We will expect to see some certain parameters in the legislation, and the devil’s going to be in the details,” she said. 

*** Finally, a reminder that nominations for the 2019 Federal 100 awards are now being accepted.

Posted on Nov 13, 2018 at 12:54 AM


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