Proposed rules would remind managers when new hires are approaching the end of probationary periods and streamline firing procedures.

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The Office of Personnel Management on Monday proposed new regulations seeking to implement portions of an executive order streamlining the firing of federal workers, including providing managers with a reminder of when new hires reach the end of their one-year probationary period and limiting the use of supplemental opportunities for poor performers to right the ship.

In a set of proposed rules slated for publication on the Federal Register Tuesday, OPM said the changes are needed to conform with the priorities of President Trump’s management agenda, as well as to bring federal personnel practices into the 21st century.

“The federal personnel system needs to keep pace with changing workplace needs and return to its root principles,” the agency wrote. “Notably, as demonstrated in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, a majority of both employees and managers agree that the performance management system fails to reward the best and address unacceptable performance. Finally, the PMA calls for agencies to establish processes that help agencies retain top employees and efficiently remove those who fail to perform or to uphold the public’s trust.”

The rules seek to implement portions of President Trump’s executive order streamlining federal firing that have not been struck down, at least temporarily, by a federal injunction. In August 2018, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson blocked provisions of the order—along with parts of two others—that would have removed adverse personnel actions from grievance procedures and standardized the length of performance improvement plans at 30 days.

A federal appeals court in July overturned that ruling on jurisdictional grounds, but the injunction will remain in place until the court decides whether to rehear the case.

In its filing, OPM acknowledged that portions of the order remain blocked, but offered assurances that it would not attempt to impose those changes in regulations until the case is resolved. Unions have accused OPM and agencies of trying to circumvent the court order through collective bargaining negotiations.

“OPM is aware of the judicially-imposed limitations on implementing other portions of Executive Order 13839,” the agency wrote. “OPM has and will continue to comply fully with the injunction, and will not issue regulations implementing the invalidated parts of the executive order as long as the judicial injunction is in place.”

The proposed regulation would insert a new step into the process by which new hires graduate to become full federal employees: reminding managers of when the end of an employee’s one-year probationary period is 90 days and 30 days away.

“To achieve the objective of maximizing the effectiveness of this probationary period, OPM believes that timely notifications to supervisors regarding probationary periods can be a useful tool for agencies and should be used,” the agency wrote. “OPM is proposing . . . to require agencies to notify supervisors that an employee’s probationary period is ending . . . and advise a supervisor to make an affirmative decision regarding the employee’s fitness for continued employment or otherwise take appropriate action.”

Additionally, OPM proposed streamlining the process by which agencies can demote or fire workers for “unacceptable” performance, clarifying that agencies are not required to help employees improve or provide an improvement period longer than federal law requires.

“The proposed rule . . . clarifies that, other than those requirements listed, there is no specific requirement regarding the nature of any assistance provided during an opportunity period, and is not determinative of the ultimate outcome with respect to reduction in grade or pay, or a removal,” OPM wrote. “The proposed rule also states that no additional performance improvement period or similar informal period to demonstrate acceptable performance to meet the required performance standards shall be provided prior to or in addition to the opportunity period.”

The rules also would shorten the timeframes by which employees have an opportunity to respond to allegations of misconduct or poor performance before adverse personnel actions are formally proposed, and bar agencies from agreeing to settlements with employees, by which workers resign from their post in exchange for having adverse personnel actions stripped from their employment records.

The proposed regulations also reiterate July 2018 OPM guidance outlining how agencies should collect data regarding adverse personnel actions and removals on an annual basis and submit this information to the HR agency for eventual publication.

“To enhance public accountability of agencies, OPM will collect and, consistent with applicable law, publish the information received from agencies aggregated at a level necessary to protect personal privacy,” OPM wrote. “[In] lieu of outlining the data collection requirements in OPM regulations, OPM will issue reminders of this requirement annually and provide periodic guidance consistent with the requirements of [the executive order].”

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USPS seeking sources for Unmanned Aircraft System (drones) as delivery vehicles

September 23, 2019 — The United States Postal Service (Postal Service or USPS) is investigating the feasibility of utilizing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones as delivery vehicles for mail as an integrated part of its vehicle delivery fleet, as well as to provide image and other data collection services.

The Postal Service recognizes that the ability of UAS to supplement mail delivery and information collection can substantially benefit the country and further the development of other autonomous systems.

The Postal Service seeks information from UAS operators and developers interested in providing aircraft and aircraft operations for delivery of mail and to collect geodetic/spatial data to improve all autonomous vehicle performance.

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Facebook removes pro-Trump ‘I Love America’ page that was run by Ukrainians

Content included memes from Russia’s Internet Research Agency

(Ben Margot/AP)

September 23

A Facebook page called “I Love America” that featured patriotic themes, rippling flags and pro-Trump memes was closed Monday after it turned out to be run by Ukrainians.

Facebook took action against the page — which had 1.1 million followers — and several affiliated ones after a report in Popular Information, a politically themed online newsletter, detailed the page’s Ukrainian management and remarkable reach. The report said “I Love America” was founded in 2017 but had moved heavily into pro-Trump content and conservative memes in recent weeks, building a huge audience in the process.

Data showed the “I Love America” pages collectively generated tens of millions of “interactions,” a metric capturing how many people like, share or comment on a post, on par with several of the largest American news sites. “I Love America” also reposted memes from Russian sources, such as the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg troll farm that faces criminal charges stemming from its efforts to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook initially did not act against “I Love America,” according to Popular Information, which quoted the company saying that it didn’t violate the platform’s rules against “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” After the story spread widely on Monday, Facebook removed the page, citing alleged violations of its policies against spam and fake accou

“We are removing these pages for violating our policies against spam and fake accounts and are continuing to investigate for any further violations,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said.

Facebook removed nine pages in all, including several devoted to dogs and others with political content, including “I Love Jesus Forever” and “God Bless Donald Trump and God Bless America.” The pages appeared to work in concert by cross-posting content, according to Popular Information.

Facebook said it had not detected links to any nation-state actor but that its investigation was still ongoing.

Among the several politically charged memes posted by “I Love America” was one showing the image of a grieving widow with text reading, “THOSE WHO DISRESPECT OUR FLAG HAVE NEVER BEEN HANDED A FOLDED ONE” — a reference to the flags given to the families of service members and veterans after they die. This meme was previously posted by the Internet Research Agency.

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