News

Grants, missile defense hit hardest in DoD S&T budget request

Overall funding for the Defense Department's science and technology budget would see about a $500 million reduction in the president's fiscal 2015 budget request, with grants and missile defense bearing the brunt of the cut, says a DoD official.

About 40 percent of DoD contracts in fiscal 2013 were noncompetitive

About 40 percent of all contracts awarded by the Defense Department in fiscal 2013 were through noncompetitive contracts, says an April 16 Government Accountability Office report. With those contracts, the DoD tends to bundle them under a class justifcation rather than justifying why there was no competition for each contract, the report says.

IRS helping a million fewer taxpayers at assistance centers in 2014, TIGTA says

The Internal Revenue Service is projected to help almost a million fewer taxpayers this filing season at tax assistance centers than it did last year because of budget cuts, says a recently released Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report.

New OIRA meetings database eases user search

The White House office charged with reviewing draft federal regulations has made it easier to search and sort records of its meetings with lobbyists and trade associations.

Brennan Center pushes for more executive action when Congress fails to act

President Obama could go farther in wielding executive power to push through policies that don't make it through Congress, says an April 15 Brennan Center for Justice report. "Bold executive action can help unstick some of the very gridlock that plagues government," says Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center and former Bill Clinton speechwriter.

OMB pushing forward with modernized security clearance plan, Cobert says

The Office of Management and Budget are pushing forward with a modernized security clearance process plan that will include continuous evaluation of federal employees and contracts after they've gained security clearance, said OMB Deputy Director for Management Beth Cobert.

Temporary uses of public land 'remarkably durable'

Private uses of public land that are technically temporary often endure, even when policymakers have other priorities for the land, argues an article published in the Georgetown Law Journal. "Once established, these claims – of which there are hundreds of thousands – seem, in many instances, to take on a life of their own," writes Bruce Huber, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, in the article.

DoD memo shows acquisition officers need more training

Acquisition experts see a March 13 Defense Department memo directing its contracting officers to seek prices lower than the general schedule as redundant and as a sign that contracting officers aren't getting the training they need. The Federal Acquisition Regulation already says that contracting officers shall seek a price reduction when the order exceeds the simplified acquisition threshold of $150,000.

OIG: FAA missing the big picture on airline safety

Despite having extensive data on airplane safety violations, the Federal Aviation Administration doesn't seek to understand their root causes or identify safety trends, a report from the Transportation Department office of inspector general says.

DOI wants agencywide system for environmental impacts of development on federal land

The Interior Department is develping an agencywide way of looking at the the environmental impacts of developing federal land rather than continuing the reactive, case-by-case approach the agency has employed in the past. The DOI is responsible for the conservation and management of fish and wildlife resources on federal lands including the impact when developing those lands. It wants an approach to project planning that can be used across its 9 bureaus.

SBA may request $1.5B bump in lending authority

The new head of the Small Business Administration told lawmakers she may return during fiscal 2015 to ask them to raise the lending limit on its flagship loan program.

Routine leaks ubiquitous but poorly understood, law professor says

Routine leaks to Congress, the press and advocacy groups play a vital and underappreciated role in oversight and presidential power, says an article published in the Georgia Law ReviewAmanda Leiter, the article's author, writes that soft whistleblowing – her term for leaks about policy decisions, not about criminal wrongdoing – is ubiquitous but has received scant attention from academia.

Electronic voter registration is quicker and more accurate, state election official says

Electronic voter registration makes make voter rolls more accurate and encourage more people to register, a state election official told a Senate panel April 9.

ACA will cost the government $100 billion less than expected, CBO says

The Affordable Care Act will cost the federal government about $100 billion less than previously predicted mostly due to lower insurance premiums, an April 14 Congressional Budget Office report says. CBO originally estimated the law would cost the government about $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.

CFC to start charging fee for charities applying to participate

The Office of Personnel Management will start charging a fee for charitable organizations that want to be part of the Combined Federal Campaign and will no longer accept cash donations from federal workers, an April 11 OPM final rule says.

Prize competitons help drive innovation, panel tells House subcommittee

Prize competitions help drive innovation and incentivizes advancements in science, a group of scientists told a house panel. Though prizes don't replace research and development funding, they serve as another tool, scientists said at an April 9 House Science, Space and Technology research and technology subcommittee hearing.

Federal workforce pay gap shrinks, OPM says

The gender pay gap in the federal workforce shrunk by almost 20 percentage points since 1992. The continuing gap comes from women being concentrated in lower paying jobs, an April 11 Office of Personnel Management report says.

GSA plans new online purchasing information repository

The General Services Administration will create an online repository containing data on much agencies have paid for particular goods and services, an April 9 GSA blog post says. The GSA will develop the Common Acquisition Platform – an online platform to guide agencies through the total acquisition process, GSA's Federal Acquisition Service head Tom Sharpe said in the blog post.

DOI doesn't know if its getting a fair price for minerals

The Interior Department doesn't know if it's getting fair market value for the minerals it permits private firms to remove from federal lands because staffers are using outdated price lists, an April 3 DOI inspector general report says. DOI's Bureau of Land Management manages the sale of mineral materials on federal lands and is responsible for ensuring that the government obtains adequate compensation for the sales of minerals.

IGs caution that single office for agencies without oversight could be unmanageable

Several agency inspectors general told a Senate panel that dozens of small agencies without dedicated auditors need more direct oversight. But they cautioned that a proposal to establish a single office for those agencies could prove unmanageable.