Senate confirms Robert McDonald to head VA

The Senate unanimously confirmed Tuesday Robert McDonald as the new head of the Veterans Affairs Department. McDonald, a former Procter & Gamble CEO and an Army veteran, replaces acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson who took over for Eric Shinseki when he resigned in May when it was discovered that the VA falsified wait lists and delayed treatments for veterans.

Some part time feds could soon be eligible for health benefits

Some part time federal employees could soon see access to government healthcare under a July 29 Office of Personnel Management proposed rule. Seasonal, intermittent and temporary employees are not eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program if they work fewer than six months, but this rule would change that for some of those federal workers.

IG uncovers substantial waste at USPTO, says paralegals 'paid to do nothing'

The Commerce Department's inspector general began its investigation nearly a year ago after it received anonymous whistleblower allegations that paralegals with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, or PTAB, within the U.S. PTO had insufficient workloads and instead used that time to surf the Internet, watch TV and do other personal activities.

GSA narrows new FBI headquarters down to 3 possible locations

The General Services Administration is looking at two locations in Maryland and one in Virginia as finalists for the relocation of the Federal Bureau of Investigations headquarters. The Greenbelt, Maryland option sits as a portion of Greenbelt Metro Station located near the intersection of Interstates 95/495 and Exit 24, a July 29 GSA statement says. The Landover, Maryland site would be built on the former Landover Mall located near the intersection of Interstates 95/495 and MD 202.

GAO: Government building data not accurate or transparent

The government's data on its own property wasn't sufficiently reliable to supper good decisions about excess and underutilized property, Government Accountability Office July 29 prepared testimony says. The Federal Real Property Council had not ensured that key data elements of the Federal Real Property Profile were defined and reported consistently and accurately, the testimony says.

PSC calls for better acquisition workforce training, speedy procurement process

A government contracting group made recommendations to speed the procurement process and better train the acquisition workforce in a July 28 report. "While these recommendations will not fix the entire acquisition system on their own, if adopted, they will serve as an important step in righting the ship," said Professional Services Council President and CEO Stan Soloway.

White House directs agencies to make employment and training programs more job-driven

Since the federal government invests $17 billion annually into employment and job-training programs, the White House is directing agencies to incorporate a series of elements that would help businesses better meet hiring needs and workers improve their outcomes.

Bipartisan VA bill would make it easier to fire VA senior execs

House and Senate lawmakers reached agreement on a $17 billion Veterans Affairs Department reform bill that would make it easier to fire VA senior executives. The legislation would give the VA secretary the authority to immediately remove an incompetent senior executive based on poor job performance, a July 28 statement from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who led the negotiations for the Senate. But it also affords that senior executive a 21-day period to file an appeal.

GAO: DoD houses 80,000 tax delinquent employees, contractors with security clearance

More than 80,000 Defense Department employees and contractors with security clearance owe back taxes, a June 28 Government Accountability Office report says. GAO found that about 83,000 DoD employees and contractors who held or were determined eligible for secret, top secret, or sensitive compartmented information clearances had unpaid federal tax debt totaling more than $730 million as of June 30, 2012, the report says.

IG: Replacing aging fleet could be opportunity, not burden for USPS

The Postal Service's aging fleet could be an opportunity for the agency to save money and meet sustainability goals in the long run, a July 25 USPS inspector general blog post says. About 142,000 long-life vehicles out of the 190,000-vehicle total delivery fleet are near or have exceeded their expected service life, the blog post says.

Trump breaks ground on Old Post Office project

Donald Trump broke ground Thursday on a project that will turn the General Services Administration-owned Old Post Office into a luxury hotel. The deal comes as a way of taking advantage of underutilized property and the hotel is set to open in early 2016.

OFPP nominee wants better, specialized training for employees

Anne Rung, the nominee to head the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said focusing on strategic source, greater innovation in federal procurement and improved training would be her top priorities should she become administrator. Rung, who received broad support at a July 24 Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, said she's seen a vast improvement in training at the Federal Acquisition Institute and wants to build on that.

District of Columbia, Maryland among worst for late delivered mail

The District of Columbia and Maryland ranked as one of the worst regions for late delivered mail, a July 21 Postal Service inspector general report says. More than two-thirds of the time, mail is delivered after 5 p.m. to residents and businesses in the Capital District, which includes Maryland and D.C., the report says.

House panel looking at bill to make it easier to fire all senior agency executives

A House panel will markup a bill Thursday that would double the probation period for senior agency executives and make it easier to fire them. The bill sponsored by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee would raise the probation period for senior executives from one year to two years.

GAO: NASA doesn't have money for space launch system

NASA planned to get a new space launch system off the ground by 2017, but it doesn't have the $12 million to do it, a July 23 Government Accountability Office report says. The space agency is at high risk of missing its planned December 2017 test flight, the report says. Currently NASA is about $400 million short of funding for the project and NASA told the GAO there was a 90 percent chance of not hitting the launch date at this time.

OMB wants more information from agencies for its continuous evaluations program

The Office of Management and Budget will collect information on training and case management to help implement continuous evaluations on the security clearances of federal workers, a July 18 OMB memo says. The memo expands on what OMB wants from agencies under the program to monitor security clearances.

NAPA: SSA needs to make digital move for customer service

The Social Security Administration should move away from relying on field offices and move toward automated and digital customer service. That could lead to job cuts at the agency, a recently released National Academy of Public Administration report says. The NAPA worked with SSA to make 29 recommendations to make the agency more viable by 2025.

Bill would set continuous goals for agencies

An Iowa lawmaker introduced a bill July 16 that seeks to set clear, measurable goals for government performance and evaluate bureaucratic systems on a continuing basis. The bill (H.R.5064), sponsored by Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), builds on the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, which set performance goals for agencies on a quarterly basis.

VA nominee pledges to restore trust in agency, hire more employees

Systemic failures at the Veterans Affairs Department must be addressed to bring trust back to the agency, VA secretary nominee Robert McDonald told a Senate panel Tuesday. "The seriousness of the moment demands urgent action," McDonald said at a July 22 Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing. "The VA is in crisis. The veterans are in need. There is a lot of work to do to transform the department and it will not be easy, but it is essential and can be achieved."

DoD leaves $3 million facility unused in Afghanistan

A nearly $3 million facility the United States built in Afghanistan for local farmers has sat unused for the last year despite interest from locals in leasing it, says a July 21 Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report. The project, developed by the Defense Department's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations is at risk of failing, the report says, because the DoD didn't identify an investor to take ownership before construction began.