News

OPM pushes agencies to consider hiring long-term unemployed

The Office of Personnel Management is pushing agencies to hire the long-term unemployed. In an Oct. 14 statement, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said the government must serve as a model for employers and not discriminate against candidates who have been unemployed for more than six months.

IG: VA cleared in Marine death

The Veterans Affairs Department inspector general cleared a Minneapolis medical facility of wrongdoing after several troubling months at VA clinics across the country related to long wait times and patients being left off wait lists. Jordan Buisman, a 25-year-old ex-Marine, left military service because of complications from epilepsy and died Nov. 26 2012 – 24 days before the date he was scheduled to see a VA doctor about his condition, says an Oct. 10 statement from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

IG: USPS hasn't analyzed impact of plant consolidation

The Postal Service hasn't analyzed the impact of closing and consolidating processing plants or informed stakeholders of changes to the consolidation plan, an Oct. 6 USPS inspector general memo says. USPS announced in August it would move ahead with the consolidation of processing facilities after the second phase of the project was postponed earlier this year.

Auditors detail purchase card abuse governmentwide

Federal workers have used government-issued purchase cards to buy thousands of dollars worth of food, salon services and gym memberships, federal auditors told a House subcommittee. This shows that abuse of government-issued purchase cards persists almost across the board despite regulations – most recently the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 – to ensure proper use, they said at an Oct. 14 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Government Operations Subcommittee.

VA procurement executive resigns over allegations of misconduct

The Veterans Affairs Department's number two contracting official, who allegedly funneled work to a Virginia contractor announced her retirement Tuesday, just more than two weeks after the allegations surfaced. Susan Taylor, Veterans Health Administration deputy procurement officer, said in an email to the VA that she would resign and retire effective Oct. 14 after 29 years of government service, an Oct. 15 Washington Post article says. Four of those years were spent at the VA.

Fiscal 2014 deficit falls to lowest level since 2008

The federal government ended fiscal 2014 with a $483 billion budget deficit, the White House announced Wednesday. That's $197 billion less than fiscal 2013 and $165 billion less than what the White House predicted for fiscal 2014. The numbers, which were announced by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, came in far lower than the trillion dollar deficits the administration announced during the financial crisis at the beginning of President Obama's second term.

Survey: Federal agencies slow to take up convergence of technology and services

Federal agencies aren't embracing combined technology and services the way the private sector is, says an Oct. 14 joint Market Connections/Professional Services Council survey. Only about 20 percent of federal procurement workers said they would be procuring monitoring, infrastructure, software, communications and training on a consumption-based as a service model in the next year, the survey says.

DOD gets guidebook for shutting down programs

The Defense Acquisition University developed a guidebook to help managers terminate programs effectively ahead of possible calls for shutdowns due to budget constraints. In lieu of a formal shutdown process at DOD, the "Smart Shutdown Guidebook" (pdf) addresses the handling of personnel, technology and data preservation, and program security protection, for example.

Survey: Morale eroding at DoD

Civilian Defense Department employees are increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs with approval ratings dropping in more than half of the categories on the DoD portion of the governmentwide Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey administered by the Office of Personnel Management. Though the full report for all agencies has yet to be released, DoD posted its results (pdf) Tuesday.

US, China patent offices can electronically exchange patent priority documents now

U.S. and Chinese government offices will now directly exchange patent application priority documents through a secure, free electronic service designed to speed up processes and lower costs.

Army police whistleblower retains his job pending investigation

The firing of an Army civilian police officer who said other officers were receiving unearned pay will be investigated by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. OSC officials persuaded the Merit Systems Protection Board to stay Kenneth Delano's departure from the force for 45 days while it looks into whether the Army retaliated against Delano. OSC's role is to protect federal whistleblowers.

SIGAR asks why DoD scrapped nearly $500M in planes for a mere $32,000

The Defense Department spent nearly half a billion dollars on aircrafts for Afghanistan only to end up destroying them and selling them for about $32,000 in scrap. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction wants to know why so much money was wasted. During a trip to Afghanistan, SIGAR John Sopko observed 16 of 20 planes in the G222 fleet parked unused on a tarmac at Kabul International Airport, a Oct. 3 letter (pdf) from Sopko to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says.

FAR council lays out process for standard contract ID system

Federal Acquisition Regulations Council issued a final rule Monday that lays out how and when agencies should transition over to a standard identification system for federal contracts. Agencies have until Oct. 1 2017 to implement the new Procurement Instrument Identification numbering system. PIID will only affect new contracts after the effective date, the rule says.

OPM: Pay flexibilities will help attract STEM talent

In an effort to close skills gaps in the federal science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, workforce, the Office of Personnel Management is encouraging human capital officers to begin using pay flexibilities.

DOE OIG: Contract management continues to be a challenge at DOE

Contract management at the Energy Department continues to be a significant challenge, says an Oct. 7 DOE inspector general report. The DOE is the most contractor-dependent civilian agency in the federal government. It awards contracts, grants and other financial assistance to industrial companies, small businesses, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations.

TIGTA: IRS continues to misclassify collections due process cases

The Internal Revenue Service continues to missclassify taxpayer request due process cases when processing collections, says a recently released Aug. 28 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report. "This year's audit continues to identify the same deficiencies in the IRS's processing of collection due process cases as previously reported," the report says.

GAO: Agencies not taking advantage of market research on lower dollar contracts

Federal agencies are taking advantage of market research for big dollar procurements, but are missing those opportunities for smaller contracts, an Oct. 9 Government Accountability Office report says. All 28 contracts GAO reviewed included some evidence of the market research conducted. The contracts GAO reviewed were pulled from the Defense Department, Homeland Security Department, Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department.

VA processes 150,000 more claims in fiscal 2014 than the previous year

Amid the storm of bad news surrounding the Veterans Affairs Department, the agency says it's chipping away at its disability and pension claims backlog. In fiscal 2014, the VA processed more than 1.3 million decisions on veterans' disability claims, an Oct. 9 VA statement says. That's more than last year's rate by about 150,000 claims.

DOL finalizes new contractor minimum wage rule

The Labor Department issued its final rule raising the minimum wage for federal contracting employees to $10.10 per hour, a notice in the Federal Register says. The pay bump, which will effect 10,000 low-wage workers at companies with federal concession agreements, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015, the notice says.

VA continues to clean up image after whistleblower retaliation claims

The Veterans Affairs Department continues to take steps to clean up its image after it punished whistleblowers for speaking out against doctored wait lists for veterans seeking healthcare. The VA says the Office of Special Counsel certified the agency under OSC's Whistleblower Protection Certification Program in an Oct. 8 statement.