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What You Missed Over the Holidays

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In the last 24 hours, House Republicans unveiled a plan Monday to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics and then reversed its plans Tuesday—and that’s how the whole holiday season has been.

While you plug back into work, here are the stories that catch you up and move you forward:

That Russia Thing

President Barack Obama on Dec. 29 announced sanctions against Russia for meddling in the U.S. presidential election, though the next day, President-elect Donald Trump praised Vladimir Putin for not retaliating. Trump has pledged to meet with the intelligence community this week. The Senate Armed Services Committee scheduled a hearing on Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States on Thursday.

Paycheck Changes

Obama on Dec. 27 issued an executive order implementing a 2.1 percent civilian pay raise to match the increase Congress gave military personnel in the defense authorization act. The pay rates take effect the first day of the first pay period beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2017. Here are the pay tables.

Speaking of the Defense Authorization Bill…

Obama on Dec. 23 signed the National Defense Authorization Act, retaining about 15,000 soldiers who were to be cut, adding about 8,000 troops and giving them a pay raise. Other provisions include:

  • Elevating U.S. Cyber Command to a combatant command.
  • Dividing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics with a new undersecretary dedicated to research and engineering, who will serve as the department’s chief technology officer.
  • Limiting funds available to the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental until the secretary submits a report to Congress on the group’s mission, management and how it supports the department.

The president wasn’t happy about a few things, in particular organizational changes to the department and time limits for the administrative leave.  

Changes to Bid Protests

NDAA also changed the Government Accountability Office’s jurisdiction over Defense Department task orders. The act raised the threshold from $10 million to $25 million.

The president also signed H.R. 5995, an act to restore and make permanent GAO’s authority to hear protests over civilian task orders worth $10 million. That authority lapsed Sept. 30.

Texting Still Counts as Federal Records

Environmental Protection Agency employees did not use text messages as a way to skirt the Federal Records Act, an EPA inspector general report concluded. The IG recommended the administrator and the EPA Office of Environmental Information need to address compliance with the Freedom of Information Act and record-keeping of responses to requests from Congress.

Non-Russia Sanctions Cybersecurity News

On Dec. 27, the Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges for the first time against traders who profited off hacked information stolen from law firms. The three traders, all Chinese citizens, earned more than $3 million off hacked information about client mergers and acquisitions stolen from two New York law firms, SEC said.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe confirmed Dec. 28 it was the victim of a data breach. The hacker may have been a Russian government-linked hacking group dubbed “Fancy Bear,” which U.S. intelligence agencies say was also responsible for hacking Democratic political organizations. OSCE is monitoring a cease-fire in Ukraine.

The Food and Drug Administration released Dec. 27 a final draft of guidance, urging manufacturers to “remain vigilant and continually address the cybersecurity risks of marketed medical devices.”

China released Dec. 27 a national cybersecurity strategy promoting state sovereignty over the internet, a stance that troubles western nations and companies who fear a crackdown on privacy and a balkanization of the global internet.

Those Airport Delays

A outage of a Customs and Border Protection processing systems caused long lines and delays Monday evening at airports in Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco and Washington. The agency told NBC News the outage lasted 4 hours and does not appear to be a malicious incident.

Heather Kuldell and Jospeh Marks contributed to this report.

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