Senate bill to address veteran suicides gains steam

Support for bill that would overhaul the Veterans Affairs Department's suicide prevention strategy gained steam on both sides of the aisle in the Senate after the mother of a combat vet who committed suicide testified to the troubles with the current system. "Clay's story details the urgency needed in addressing this issue," Susan Selke, said at a Nov. 19 Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. "Despite his proactive and open approach to seeking care to address his injuries, the VA system did not adequately address his needs. Even today, we continue to hear about both individual and systemic failures by the VA to provide adequate care and address the needs of veterans."

Nominee pledges to fix federal background check system if OK'd as OPM's No. 2

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Earl Gay said he would focus on fixing the Office of Personnel's background check system if the Senate approves his nomination as the agency's deputy director, a position that has been vacant for more than three years.

Chaffetz set to take over House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Tuesday was named the new House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, set to take over from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in the new year, getting the assignment over three other, more senior members.

VA issues second round of cards that allow vets to seek outside medical care

Veterans waiting more than 30 days for an appointment at a Veterans Affair medical center will be able to seek outside health care, the department announced in a Nov. 18 statement.

OPM reaching out to managers to educate on Pathways program recruitment

The Office of Personnel Management convened a 100-person session to help identify problems with the Pathways program, said OPM Chief of Staff Ann Marie Habershaw at a Nov. 19 event sponsored by FedInsider and George Washington University. OPM has been hearing complaints about Pathways, which is an internship program that could lead to a full-time government position, since it started in 2012, with federal managers saying hiring interns out of the program is too cumbersome.

IG: USPS needs to better define what mail services it's required to provide

The Postal Service lacks a clear definition for what mail services it is required to provide, a Nov. 17 USPS inspector general report says. "The current universal service obligation is assumed to be a hodgepodge of various legal requirements and regulations that, in most cases, provide only broad guidance," the report (pdf) says.

USPTO and agency IG at odds over extent of telework abuses

Patent and Trademark officials were at odds with the agency's inspector general findings about the level of telework attendance abuse at a Nov. 18 joint congressional hearing. While the agency contended that it has the problem under control, Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser said the agency's internal investigation understated the problem, at a joint House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and House Judiciary Committee hearing.

CBO examines how fed policy, system changes can spur US innovation

The federal government can change a number of existing policies around research and development, education and tax to spur greater U.S. innovation, a new Congressional Budget Office report said. It also examined what changes can be made to immigration policy, the patent system and the regulatory environment.

OGIS director Miriam Nisbet to retire at end of November

For much of her career in government service, Miriam Nisbet has been on the cutting edge of the intersection of digital technology and the Freedom of Information Act. But more than 35 years after she began government service in 1978, Nisbet will leave her post as the government's top FOIA ombudsman at the end of November to take a break and pursue a career in the private sector.

GAO: OPM underestimated time feds spent working on union business

The Office of Personnel Management could have understated the amount of time federal employees are conducting union business on the clock, a recently released Oct. 23 Government Accountability Office report says. OPM found in 2012 that the cost of federal employees conducting union business during official time across 62 agencies came in at about $157.2 million for about 3.44 million hours, the report says.

GAO: VHA doesn't know if medical centers prepared to implement staffing methodology

The Veterans Health Administration didn't properly assess each Veterans Affairs Department medical center to see if they were prepared to implement methodology for how to properly staff their nursing units, a recently released Oct. 16 Government Accountability Office report says. That means VHA doesn't know if each medical center has the nurse staffing that is adequate to meet veterans' "growing and increasingly complex health care needs," GAO says.

US contribution to UN climate fund marks shift for federal government

The federal government pledged to contribute $3 billion over four years to the Green Climate Fund which helps developing countries combat climate change. The Nov. 15 announcement marks a shift for the United States, a Brookings Institution blog post says.

GAO: 2013 shutdown affected contract and grants programs at some agencies

The 2013 government shutdown impacted operations at three agencies the Government Accountability Office reviewed including closures of clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health, a recently released Oct. 15 GAO report says. GAO reviewed programs at the Health and Human Services Department, Energy Department and Transportation Department and found the October 2013 lapse in appropriations significantly hindered some programs at those agencies.

OPM revamping

The Office of Personnel management is intent on doing more to bring in the right people to government. That means reaching out to new areas on the recruitment side but also improving the application process by retooling, said Director of the Office of Personnel Management Katherine Archuleta during a Nov. 14 digital town hall.

Work: If sequestration comes back, military will be in trouble

With the two year sequestration reprieve that came from the Murray-Ryan budget deal last year, the Defense Department has begun to rebound from the automatic spending cuts, but that could all be for naught if those cuts come back next year, DoD Deputy Secretary Robert Work said at a Nov. 12 Center for Strategic and International Studies event. The budget deal expires at the end of fiscal 2015 and if sequestration is reinstated in full, it would cause major problems for the DoD, Work said at the event.

USPS reports a $5.5B loss in fiscal 2014

The Postal Service lost $5.5 billion dollars in fiscal 2014, all of which came from USPS's cost to pre-fund employee healthcare. The loss comes in at about $500 million more than fiscal 2013, but nearly $11 million less than fiscal 2012 when USPS recorded a historic loss of $16 billion, a Nov. 14 USPS statement says.

First female USPS postmaster general to take over after Donahoe retires

The Postal Service Board of Governors voted to appoint the first female postmaster general to replace Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, who will retire early next year. The Board of Governors announced Nov. 14 in an email statement that Megan Brennan, the current USPS chief operating officer, will begin her tenure as the new postmaster general in February 2015.

TIGTA: IRS isn't auditing partnerships in accordance with federal rules

The Internal Revenue Service isn't auditing some partnerships in accordance with federal regulations, says a recently released Sept. 26 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report. The IRS defines a partnership as a relationship between two or more entities or persons who join to carry on a trade or business, with each partner contributing money, property, labor or skill.  Each entity of the partnership expects to share in the profits and losses.

Report: small biz panel manipulated by trade associations

The government panel that reviews federal rules and how they affect small businesses is manipulated by trade associations, a Nov. 12 Center for Effective Government report says. Three federal agencies are required to convene a small business review panel any time the govenrment plans to issue a rule that could have a significant economic impact on small businesses.

Nessie, Big Foot and our Fierce 15 winners

"I'd give my left arm for someone innovating in acquisition," said one government executive. But take one look at this year's list and it's clear that innovators in acquisition are not a myth. They practically dominated this year's list of honorees.