News

Agencies don't know if programs to improve lives of Afghan women actually worked, says audit

Three federal agencies responsible for directing funds to help women in Afghanistan didn't track their spending or results, so no one knows if the programs worked, says a Dec. 18 Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report. The agencies involved reported spending at least $64.8 million on 652 projects, programs and initiatives to support Afghan women in fiscal years 2011 through 2013.

DoD doesn't know if testing ranges are susceptible to spying, says GAO

The Defense Department doesn't know if its testing ranges are vulnerable to foreign spying, a Dec. 16 Government Accountability Office report says. "DOD has not conducted a risk assessment that includes assessing the degree to which foreign encroachment could pose a threat to the mission of the ranges," the GAO report says.

GAO: NRC cost estimating procedures aren't reliable

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's overall cost estimating procedures do not create reliable cost estimates, a recently released Dec. 12 Government Accountability Office report says. While some of the NRC's cost estimation procedures incorporate best practices, the agency isn't doing enough to make sure the cost estimates are accurate, the report says.

Agencies to charge feds for taking vacation or sick leave on snow days, says OPM

Federal employees who take vacation or sick leave on a day when federal offices are closed due to inclement weather will now be charged for those days, a new Office of Personnel Management policy says. Previously, when agencies closed due to bad weather it was considered a non-workday, and an employee that had previously been approved to take the day off would not be charged for that day.

Brookings: Long-term CBO projections less reliable due to unforseeable circumstances

Congressional Budget Office projections become less reliable as the temporal length of the projection period grows, says Brookings Institute Senior Fellow Henry Aaron in a Dec. 15 report. Budget projections can provide a valuable look at what the world will look like if current laws remain in place, but they cannot tell how or when to act in the face of major changes, Aaron says in the report.

Report: Agencies aren't requiring grant recipients to provide information on grant performance

The federal government faces significant challenges in controlling grants and benefit programs administered in partnership with state and local governments and not-for-profit institutions, says a Dec. 16 Association of Government Accountants report.

Long wait times, low access to live help mar IRS taxpayer phone service, GAO says

The GAO report said "more than a third of calls ended with the taxpayer hanging up, receiving a busy signal, or being disconnected before reaching an assistor." In 2014, taxpayers had to wait more than twice as long to speak with an assistor than they did in 2009.

Agencies must submit SES position request by the end of the month

Agencies must look into how many senior executive positions they'll need overall in the next two fiscal years and report that number to the Office of Personnel Management by Dec. 31, a Dec. 12 OPM memo says. 

GAO: James Webb Space Telescope risks schedule slip

Despite NASA reporting the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, will launch as planned in October 2018, the Government Accountability Office says one of the agency's most complex and expensive projects in NASA history faces increased schedule and cost risks.

USPS Board of Governors calls emergency committee after it loses quorum

The Postal Service Board of Governors convened an emergency committee so it can do business since it doesn't currently have enough members to make a quorum, a Dec. 16 Federal Register notice says. The board needs six members out of 11 to be filled to make up a quorum, but with the retirement of Chairman Mickey Barnett on Dec. 8, the board is currently down to five members, the notice (pdf) says.

IG: USPS needs to change its infrastructure model

The Postal Service needs to change the way it does business to dispel the tension that exists between the Postal Service's role as a national infrastructure and its role as a business, a Dec. 15 USPS inspector general report says. The Postal Service currently provides infrastructure services that facilitate economic activity, improve quality of life and benefit wider society in a variety of ways, the report says.

OPM adopting new metrics to measure effectiveness of government health benefits program

The Office of Personnel Management has proposed a new way to measure how effective the government's health benefits program works. OPM is developing a new framework to analyze the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, according to a proposed rule (pdf) posted Dec. 15.

Senate passes bill to change TSP enrollment for new feds, heads to Obama's desk

The Senate Dec. 10 approved a bill that would automatically enroll new federal workers into the Thrift Savings Plan's Lifecycle Fund rather than the Government Securities Investment Fund. The measure – which would not affect federal workers who are already enrolled in a TSP fund – heads to President Obama for his signature.

FOIA reform is dead for now

Freedom of Information Act reform is dead for this Congressional session. As House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) closed the last meeting of the 113th Congress, the FOIA bill was nowhere to be found despite pleas from both sides of the aisle. The Senate last week passed updated bipartisan FOIA legislation and urged House lawmakers to pass the bill before the current session ends.

Report: Government needs more diverse environmental workforce

Federal government environmental departments are leading the way in diversity compared to private companies and nongovernmental organizations. But even with that, the percentage of racial diversity in those government agencies dealing with the environment are low, a recently released report from Green 2.0 says. People of color make up 15.5 percent of the federal government's environmental organizations. That's compared to 12 percent of private organizations and 12.4 percent of NGOs, says the report (pdf), which was released Dec.10 but was completed back in July.

OPM continues to fall short of time sensitive retirement processing goal

Office of Personnel Management officials continue to defend the agency's progress processing federal retirement claims, even though OPM has fallen short of internal goals. OPM is currently processing about 83 percent of retirement claims within 60 days of receiving them, while the agency's goal is to process 90 percent in 60 days, OPM statistics show.

House passes omnibus fiscal 2015 spending bill

The House narrowly passed a fiscal 2015 appropriations bill Thursday night paving the way for Senate approval and avoiding a government shutdown. The $1.1 trillion fiscal 2015 bill (H.R. 83) would fund every government agency with the exception of DHS through Sept. 30. That number includes $521 billion for defense functions of several agencies and $492 billion for non-defense agency functions.

IG: USPS having problems with Sunday Amazon delivery

Problems occurred during Sunday delivery at a more than a third of Postal Service delivery hubs reviewed, a Dec. 5 USPS IG report says. In October 2013, USPS entered into a service agreement with Amazon to deliver parcels on Sunday. The agreement is a specific contract the Postal Service executes with a single customer to increase revenue, improve operations or yield other benefits to the Postal Service, the IG report (pdf) says.

GAO: NASA faces huge obstacles in putting a person on Mars

Still basking in the success of last week's Orion space launch, NASA officials were brought back to Earth with Government Accountability Office testimony that says NASA still faces incredible technical and financial challenges in its mission to put a person on Mars. In Dec. 10 testimony, GAO space expert Cristina Chaplain says the mission to put a person on Mars has been hampered by unrealistic and inconsistent goals as well as significant funding issues.

IG: USPS spends far more on city mail carriers than rural ones

The Postal Service is paying significantly more in costs to supervise city mail carriers than it does for rural carriers, says a Dec. 2 USPS inspector general report. For every 100 employees, supervisory costs – including salary and benefits – for city carriers were about $440,000 on average in fiscal 2013, the report (pdf) says.