House Passes Package of Reforms Aimed at Federal Agencies and Employees

The House of Representatives passed a legislation package today that aims to tackle a myriad of issues from banning federal employees from watching pornography at work and using unsecured private email servers to conduct government business to extending the probationary period for some federal workers.

The House of Representatives passed a package of government reform bills today that would make a number of changes impacting the federal workforce.

The legislation is known as the Government Reform and Improvement Act (GRIA) (H.R. 4361) and is actually a package of past proposed bills. The package includes the following:

Federal Information Systems Safeguards Act of 2016 – Representative Gary Palmer (R-AL)

  • Clarifies that agency heads have the authority under the Federal Information Security Management Act to block websites on agency computer networks that could create a cybersecurity risk for the agency.
  • Ensures that the head of a federal agency does not just have the responsibility to secure the agency’s networks but also has the authority to do so, and without collective bargaining.

Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act – Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC)

  • Requires the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidelines no later than 90 days after the date of enactment that prohibit the access of a pornographic or other explicit web site from a federal computer.
  • Makes an exception for instances in which it is necessary to access the pornographic or explicit site for investigations.

Extension of Probationary Period for Career Employees Act – Representative Ken Buck (R-CO)

  • Extends the probationary period from one to two years for individuals appointed in the competitive service and for the initial appointments of managers or supervisors.

Senior Executive Service Accountability Act – Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI)

  • Extends the probationary period for the Senior Executive Service (SES) from one to two years.
  • Prohibits an SES employee removed for performance issues from retaining his or her higher rate of pay if that person is appointed to a lower civil service position.
  • Subjects SES employees to suspensions without pay for up to two weeks in cases of misconduct and provides for an expedited process for removal or transfer of a career appointee for misconduct or poor performance.

Midnight Rule Relief Act of 2016 – Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI)

  • Prohibits federal agencies from proposing or finalizing major midnight rules during the moratorium period.
  • Allows for exceptions if the president determines that a regulation is necessary during emergencies or for the national security of the United States.

Ditto Act of 2016 – Representative Mark Walker (R-NC)

  • Requires the Internal Revenue Service to maintain any record it obtains from a person and any records it generates related to that original record it obtained for at least three years.

To amend title 5, United States Code, to require that the Office of Personnel Management submit an annual report to Congress relating to the use of official time by Federal employees – Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL)

  • Requires agencies to furnish U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) official time data annually which, in turn, OPM is required to report to Congress.
  • Ensures that Congress receives timely information on official time usage, necessary for proper oversight to ensure accountability to the American taxpayer.

The legislation also includes an amendment offered by Representative Bill Posey (R-FL) that would prohibit federal employees from conducting official government business using an unsecure private email server. Specifically, it would require federal employees to conduct official business on email servers and other information technology (IT) that have been certified compliant with security protocols.

The amendment no doubt comes in response to a number of cases where private email accounts were used by government officials, the most notable of which is Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. FBI director James Comey announced this week that the Democratic presidential candidate would not face charges over the use of the private server.

The White House came out with strong opposition to the House legislation and has issued a veto threat, so even if the legislation package was to make it to the president it would almost certainly be vetoed.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.