White House

5 Things You Need to Know About Federal News From the Past Month

Changes in federal government keep coming fast. That’s why GovLoop gives you these monthly recaps of federal news that may affect agency management and employment. If you’ve fallen behind, check out the previous recaps.

By the time you read this, there will undoubtedly be new developments. And, this roundup can’t include everything. The focus is on federal news most relevant to government employees. Check out the linked sources for more information to stay on top of the latest news in government.

1. New hires and confirmations

The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel as CIA director. Haspel’s nomination faced opposition over her role in the CIA’s controversial interrogation program, which the Washington Post explained “employed techniques such as waterboarding that are widely seen as torture.”

Mitchell Zais was confirmed as deputy secretary of education. Zais has a reputation as a “vehement opponent of the Common Core State Standards,” and a supporter of school choice and the expansion of charter schools.

The Senate confirmed Jelena McWilliams to head the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The Wall Street Journal said McWilliams’ confirmation “clears the way for a coordinated implementation of the administration’s deregulatory agenda.”

Also confirmed: Michael Atkinson as inspector general of the Intelligence Community at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Brian Montgomery as an assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Francis Fannon, a former oil executive, as first assistant secretary for the Bureau of Energy Resources at the State Department. Gregory Slavonic to be an Assistant Secretary of the Navy; three members for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Annie Caputo, David Wright, and Jeff Baran.

Trump appointed a number of celebrities to his Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. Axios reported the appointees include New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, and TV personality Dr. Oz, who Vox described as a “longtime purveyor of medical misinformation.”

Michael Stoker, who coined the “Lock her up” chant aimed at Hillary Clinton in 2016, was appointed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 office, which oversees the Pacific Southwest.

2. Departures

After National Security Council cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce left the U.S. government’s top cybersecurity job to return to the NSA, Politico reported that national security advisor John Bolton eliminated the position. Cybersecurity experts “expressed alarm” at the decision, saying it “would undo much of the progress the U.S. has made on cyber efforts and send the wrong message about U.S. priorities.”

Bryan Rice resigned as director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs after allegations emerged that he’d “exhibited aggressive and intimidating behavior.” Rice was appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and served as BIA director for just six months.

Albert “Kell” Kelly, one of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s top aides who was in charge of an EPA Superfund task force, abruptly resigned because of “continual bad press” about how the FDIC had banned him from work in the banking for life. Amidst continued scandal and investigations into ethics and leadership at the EPA, Liz Bowman, Pruitt’s head of communications, resigned. John Konkus, deputy associate administrator in the EPA’s office of public affairs, left the agency for a communications job at the Small Business Administration.

3. Even more departures

Mark Inch, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, resigned because he “was tired of the administration flouting ‘departmental norms'” and he was excluded and marginalized from his responsibilities by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner.

Richard Johnson, acting assistant coordinator in the State Department’s Office of Iran Nuclear Implementation, resigned after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson stepped down after 30 years. When she announced her retirement in March, she said the “decision is all the more difficult because of my profound belief in the importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship and knowledge that it is at a crucial moment.”

Dr. Jennifer Peña, the doctor at the White House Medical Unit assigned to the Vice President, resigned after CNN reported that she “privately raised alarms” that Trump’s doctor Ronny Jackson may have violated federal privacy protections and other misconduct. White House lawyer Ty Cobb retired, and was replaced by Emmet Flood.

Lisa Page, a top FBI aide, resigned following a controversy over text messages she’d sent that “expressed anti-Trump views…and took aim at Hillary Clinton and other political figures.” James A. Baker, who until recently had been the FBI general counsel until he was reassigned, also resigned.

4. Staffing issues

Speaking of departures, administration staffers looking at the exit may want to consider their options—or lack thereof. The Boston Globe described how working for the Trump White House isn’t always the “transformative experience one expects” after people leave.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lifted the hiring freezes on on family members of State Department personnel posted oversea and on the Foreign and Civil services, and authorized the State Department to “hire to current funding level.” Pompeo also pledged to help the State Department “get its swagger back.”

The Navy said it will no longer announcing the names of commanders relieved for poor performance or misconduct. USA Today called the decision “a step back from the transparency the service had championed.”

5. Agency issues

Government Executive reported that although an Office of Management and Budget website collected more than 100,000 ideas from American citizens for “making the federal government more efficient, effective and accountable,” the OMB deleted the website and now “the White House has no records relating to its categorization or analysis of public input on how it should reorganize government.

According to the New York Times, “members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters,” which has “effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.”

Trump signed an executive order establishing a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Via tweets, NPR explained:

The Washington Post explains how this new office “actually weakens religious freedom.”

Note: This article not an opinion about or endorsement of any policies, regulations, or orders, nor of the behaviors of elected officials, political appointees, government employees, other individuals, organizations, or agencies.

Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, freelance writer, and trainer based in San Francisco. She helps organizations engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.

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