Gallup: Only 15 percent of Americans approve of Congress

While only 15 percent of Americans say they approve of Congress, it's a jump from last year's record low of 9 percent, a recent Gallup poll finds. The July 15 poll of 1,013 adults from July 1-10 is virtually unchanged from the 16-percent approval recorded in the prior month. The margin of sampling error for the poll is 4 percentage points.

IG: USPS should offer expanded services for e-commerce

The Postal Service needs a better plan to take advantage of the e-commerce boom by offering expanded services to businesses and consumers shipping packages, a July 21 USPS inspector general report says.

CFPB touts achievements, says recouped $4.6 billion for consumers

Since the bureau was created in 2011, it's handled more than 400,000 complaints about credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts and services, student loans, credit reporting, money transfers, debt collection, payday loans, vehicle and other consumer loans and prepaid cards, according to a July 21 blog post.

IG: US Postal Service needs to step up measures in reducing undeliverable mail

Of the more than 158 billion mailpieces it processed in fiscal 2013, about 6.8 billion, or 4.3 percent, were so-called "undeliverable as addressed," or UAA. Reasons include incorrect or illegible addresses or people moving, according to the USPS inspector general audit released July 14.

Obama amends executive orders to protect gay, transgender workers

President Obama amended Monday two executive orders that prohibit the federal government and its contractors from discriminating against gay and transgendered workers. Executive Order 11246, issued by President Lyndon Johnson, prohibits federal contractors from discriminating "against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin."

HASC subcommittee leader says DoD needs more broadly trained soldiers

The head of the House subcommittee on military readiness said the Defense Department needs train soldiers for a broader set of missions during tough fiscal times, at a Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion last week. "People have extraordinary experience, but in a very narrow range of operation. I can guarantee you that the challenges they face in the future will not be exactly like what they have faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. So the question is how do you make sure you train to develop that capability?" said Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on readiness at the event.

House appropriations provision would cancel IRS executive bonuses

Under an appropriations bill passed by the House last week, executives at the Internal Revenue Service would be ineligible for performance awards in 2015. The bill (H.R.5016), passed by the House July 16, sets out fiscal 2015 appropriations for the IRS and general government services. The bonuses provision was added as an amendment by Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) and approved in a 282-138 vote. The amendment would affects IRS career management officials in the Senior Executive Service.

GSA launches maintenance supplies BPA

The General Services Administration launched a program to make it cheaper for agencies to purchase maintenance, repairs and operations products, a July 17 GSA statement says. GSA issued the notice to proceed on its MRO strategic sourcing Blanket Purchase Agreement, which the agency says will save agencies money on commonly purchased maintenance products such as hardware, tools, paints, adhesives and sealants, the statement says.

DoD overseas budget request decreases as war winds down

The Defense Department's decreased war budget request comes as a result of the war in Afghanistan winding down, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told a House panel. The DoD requested $58.6 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations funding for fiscal 2015--about $26.7 billion less than the fiscal 2014 enacted level. And it comes in at about $100 billion less than the OCO request from fiscal 2011.

Taxpayer Advocate to focus on preparer fraud and tax exempt applications

The federal taxpayer ombudsman plans to focus on how the Internal Revenue Service addresses tax preparer fraud and handles tax-exempt organization applications. The National Taxpayer Advocate is required to make a mid-year report to Congress that lays out its goals for reviewing the IRS.

OPM rule will allow some feds to enroll in dental and vision outside of open period

Some federal employees will be allowed to enroll in dental and vision coverage outside the normal open period, a July 17 Office of Personnel Management final rule says. Federal workers with qualifying life events will be able to change their benefits immediately rather than wait for the open period in November.

House passes bill slashing IRS budget, but allowing Obama to implement federal pay raise

The House passed a fiscal 2015 appropriations bill Wednesday that slashes funding for the Internal Revenue Service, but opens the way for President Obama to implement a pay bump for federal workers.

Baltimore VA office stockpiled thousands of claims records

Major mail mismanagement at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Regional Office slowed down the processing of benefits claims and the mishandling of sensitive documents, a July 14 VA inspector general report says. A supervisor at the Baltimore VA office inappropriately stockpiled about 8,000 documents in an office, the report says. Also, about 1,500 documents containing personally identifiable information about veterans were improperly stored in work spaces at the Baltimore office.

House bill would make Federal Register more digitally-reliant

The House unanimously passed a bill Monday that would change the requirement that the Federal Register be printed every morning. The bill (H.R.4195) would change the word "print" to "publicize" so the Federal Register could be distributed electronically rather than on paper.

House passes bill to change TSP for new employees

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill Monday that would enroll new federal employees into a more diverse retirement plan than the one currently used with the Thrift Savings Plan. The bill (H.R.4193) would change the funding the TSP for new hires from the now-standard G Fund to lifecycle funds. Those L Funds would move retirement savings into less risky funds as federal workers get closer to retirement age.

OPM, GAO officials call for general schedule pay overhaul

Top administration personnel officials called for changes to the federal general schedule pay system and it needs a complete overall rather than the tweaks it's gotten over the years. "We really need to take a look at the whole system," Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta said at a July 15 House Oversight and Government Reform federal workforce, Postal Service and the Census subcommittee hearing.

Air Force will offer early retirement in effort to reduce workforce costs

The Air Force plans to reduce costs and personnel by offering early retirement to 3,500 civilian workers, a July 14 Air Force statement says. The reduction is part of a Defense Department initiative that requires each military branch to cut costs and staff by at least 20 percent by 2019, saving the Air Force about $1.6 billion over the next five years.

CBO: Senate committee Postal bill would save agency $17 billion

A Senate committee approved Postal Service reform bill would cost about $19 billion, but eventually save the USPS $36 billion over the next ten years, a Congressional Budget Office estimate says. The USPS net budgetary savings would come in at about $17 billion over the period of 2015-2024, the CBO says.

Official: Budget cuts, pay freezes hurt DoD acquisition workforce

Myriad challenges face Defense Department acquisition and many of them have been exacerbated budget cuts and pay freezes, DoD officials told a House panel July 10. "The fiscal challenges, shifting operational requirements, the current budget instability deriving from sequestration, years of pay freezes, furloughs, military end-strength reductions and the requirement for commensurate reductions in our civilian workforce, more than a decade of conflict--inevitably all of these things have affected the acquisition workforce," said Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephanie Barna at the hearing.

VA says it cut backlog in half, IG doesn't believe it

The Veterans Affairs Department has reduced its benefits claims backlog by more than 50 percent from its peak early last year a top official said. But lawmakers and the VA's own inspector general don't believe it. VA Undersecretary Allison Hickey said at a House Veteran's Affairs Committee hearing that the benefits backlog has dropped to about 275,000 pending claims--down from 600,000 last year.