GAO: 2 agencies awarding SBA contracts to businesses owned by venture capital firms

Two of the agencies participating in a Small Business Administration innovation program opted to open the program to small businesses that are majority-owned by venture capital firms, says a Nov. 20 Government Accountability Office report. The Health and Human Services Department and the Energy Department opted to open part of their Small Business Innovation Research programs to small businesses that are majority-owned by multiple venture capital or similar firms, allowing such companies to apply for and receive SBIR awards, the report says.

IG: Nearly a third of USPS contract drivers don't hold valid security clearances

Postal service contract drivers didn't always comply with security clearance requirements and the Postal Service isn't adequately monitoring the process, says a Nov. 20 USPS inspector general report. The Postal Service requires contract drivers to obtain non-sensitive security clearances, which the Postal Inspection Service Security Investigations Service Center must renew every 4 years, the report (pdf) says.

USPS IG: Mobile apps and credit services will increase revenue

The Postal Service currently lags behind competitors in the area of mobile services and digital payment technologies, but if it can improve its eCommerce offerings it will increase shipping and package revenue and remain relevant in the digital age, says the USPS Inspector General.

VA fires head of Phoenix medical center

The Veterans Affairs Department fired the head of the Phoenix medical center that's been wrapped up in a scandal involving falsifying wait time records, the VA says in a Nov. 24 statement. The agency formally removed Sharon Helman, the director of the Phoenix VA Healthcare System, from federal service, the statement says.

Hagel to step down as head of DoD

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be leaving his post once a successor is nominated and confirmed, a Nov. 24 Defense Department news release says. Obama praised Hagel's service and noted he became the head of the DoD at a particularly difficult time. "When I asked Chuck to serve as secretary of defense, we were entering a significant period of transition," Obama said in the news release.

JCS's Dempsey: DoD needs larger budget to address mission needs despite sequestration

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called for an increased Defense Department budget, despite the looming threat of another year of sequestration related budget cuts in fiscal 2016. Chairman Martin Dempsey said even with the partial sequestration relief written into the fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015 budget framework, the $535 billion spending cap isn't enough.

VA issues RFP for advanced appointment scheduling system to replace 30-year old one

As part of the Veterans Affairs Department's effort to cut down on patient wait times at its medical facilities, the department has issued a request for proposal for a new medical appointment scheduling system. Officials are trying to replace a system that's been in place since 1985.

Gallup: Americans deliver high marks to USPS, rated highest out of 13 major agencies

Americans rated the U.S. Postal Service as their favorite among13 major federal agencies – even with rate hikes, proposed plant closures, dire calls for reform from the agency, and consistent annual losses in the billions of dollars, a new Gallup poll says.

EPA paid eight employees more than $1M to not work, internal investigation finds

The Environmental Protection Agency has paid more than $1 million to eight employees on administrative leave, including two workers who have been collecting salaries and benefits for four years, the inspector general says in a Nov. 19 early warning report.

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.