The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs moved to the Senate Nov. 6 two Postal Regulatory Commission members, both of which support legislation that would change the way the Postal Service provides healthcare to retirees.
Sequestration cut an already-declining intelligence community budget by more than $4 billion in fiscal 2013, recently released statistics from the Defense Department and the National Intelligence Director show.
Congressional voting patterns tend to shift in the president's favor during times of war--and the effect was especially strong during World War II and the post-9/11 wars, according to a new book on the wartime presidency. The book's authors--two political science professors and a Brookings Institution fellow--discussed their findings at a Brookings event Nov. 1.
The Postal Service didn't identify and recover about $9.9 million in fuel overpayments to trucking contractors in 2009 and 2010 through its Voyager Card Program, which allows drivers to expense gas on a credit card, an Oct. 30 USPS inspector general report says. The USPS IG found that in 2009 and 2010 the Postal Service calculated and recovered $12.6 million in overpayments, but when the IG did its own calculations, it found $22.5 million in overpayments.
Between 2005 and 2010, the U.S. Marshal Service spent nearly $800,000 on promotional swag such crystal statues, scars and Christmas ornaments due to lax oversight, a Nov. 5 Justice Department inspector general report says. The IG found the USMS Investigative Operations Division spent at least $793,118 on promotional items that these expenditures were excessive and, in some instances, in contravention of department policies.
The General Services Administration plans to experiment with car-sharing services as it considers whether the model suits the government's needs. In a request for information issued Nov. 5, GSA says that car-sharing may be more cost-effective than renting, leasing or purchasing when agencies only need vehicles intermittently.
The Small Business Administration plans to update its data rights policies under the Small Business Innovation Research program in late 2013 or early 2014, the Government Accountability Office says. An SBA spokesman could not offer details other than to say that the government shutdown in October delayed the revision process.
The government could save between $540 million and $770 million annually by moving to a shared service model for financial systems, an Oct. 30 Association of Government Accountant's report on a September AGA panel on shared services. With shared services, financial management systems become standardized across agencies, use fewer resources and a central staff.
Some Veterans Affairs contracts with non-VA medical providers didn't contain specific performance requirements and contracting officer representatives didn't have time to monitor the contracts due to other duties, an Oct. 31 Government Accountability Office report says.
For several healthcare centers that the Veterans Affairs Department planned to build in 2012, the department still had yet to award leases--let alone begin construction--as of August of this year. VA sent Congress a timeline in 2010, showing its plans to award the leases by August 2010, finish construction by May 2012 and occupy the buildings a month later.
The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management issued joint guidance that establishes spending caps on federal employee bonuses, but doesn't ban them, regardless of whether sequestration continues. The guidance (.pdf) caps employee bonuses at no more than one percent of aggregate salary. Senior Executive Service member bonuses are capped at no more than five percent of aggregate salary. Budgetary limitations do not apply to political appointees. The OPM guidance from August 2010 cancelling all discretionary bonuses for political appointees continues to be in effect.
The more independent groups spend to influence state supreme court elections, the more that elected high bench justices tend to rule for the prosecution in criminal cases during election season, an Oct. 28 Center for American Progress report says.
The cash for clunkers program, which was supposed to boost short term vehicle sales and reduce carbon emissions, ended up costing more than it was worth, an Oct. 30 Brookings report says. The $2.85 billion Car Allowance Rebate System, known as cash for clunkers, provided economic incentives to people who bought new, more fuel-efficient vehicles when they traded in their less fuel-efficient vehicles. The program was offered July 1 to Aug. 24, 2009.
House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders urged members of the budget conference to at least agree to a discretionary topline by Dec. 2 so the committees can start working on spending bills with enough time to pass them before the government runs out of money again Jan. 15. In an Oct. 31 letter (.pdf) to budget committee leaders, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) also asked budget conference leaders to agree on a common discretionary topline for fiscal 2015.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed the head of the National Guard to meet with nine states to resolve the issue of those states denying ID cards to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities. Hagel announced the directive in an Oct. 31 speech at the Anti-Defamation League.
More than a month after Aaron Alexis shot and killed a dozen people after entering a Washington Navy Yard building, the government's head personnel chief told a Senate panel that the security clearance process is not fundamentally flawed, but needs improvements.
More than 8,000 federal employees and contractors approved for security clearances between 2012 owed back taxes totaling $85 million, a recently released Sept. 10 Government Accountability Office report says. The GAO says 8,400 federal workers and contractors with clearance owed back taxes and about half of them had not worked out a repayment plan with the Internal Revenue Service, the report says. Of those that owed back taxes, 4,700 were directly employed by the federal government and the rest were contractors.
The Veterans Affairs Department official who resigned last year after it came out that the department spent vast sums of money on two conferences, refused to speak at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Oct. 30.
The Veterans Affairs Department doesn't support a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee bill that would require the VA to post information about the average processing times for disability claims, said VA Deputy Undersecretary for Health Robert Jesse. And though the bill was introduced as a way to monitor and keep transparent the backlog of claims, the VA thinks collecting and posting all of that information would be burdensome and actually slow down processing.
While science research programs received less funding 10 years ago than they do today, they benefitted from the fact that the Energy Department had a better feel for how much money was coming. Today, however, funding levels are in flux, making long term planning difficult, said Pat Dehmer, deputy director of science programs at the DOE's office of science.