Hixson: Tight budgets cause contracting officers to be risk-averse

Federal procurement officers tend to favor lowest price over technically acceptable contract vehicles because of the scrutiny placed on spending in tough budget times and that makes it difficult for those contracting officers to take risks, Federal Acquisition Service Regional Commissioner Tiffany Hixson said in an interview. "Right now there is a culture of being risk averse almost to point of taking no risk for fear of being criticized," Hixson said. "That's really driving some of the LPTA preference."

McConnell fires first shot toward possible government shutdown

Talks of another possible government shutdown in October are starting as Congress has stalled on passing appropriations bills and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has fired the first shot. But this time, defunding the Affordable Care Act isn't the impediment like it was last year. It's President Obama's use of executive power.

Issa launches investigation in USPTO telework abuse

The House Oversight Committee chairman wants answers from the Commerce Department about why reports show that patent examiners and paralegals lied about their hours while teleworking. At the end of July, the Commerce Department inspector general found that many paralegal specialists at the PTO "were frequently paid to do nothing". The practice persisted over several years even as a backlog of appeals cases grew during that time.

MSPB: Some federal workers think vets get special hiring treatment

The federal government's complex hiring rules favoring veterans have caused federal workers to think vets get unfair treatment, a recently released Merit Systems Protection Board report says. "Some of the perceptions of inappropriate favoritism may have been a result of the complex hiring process and a proliferation of hiring authorities, which can invite misunderstandings and provide opportunities for suspicion," the report says.

GAO: CMS needs to improve guidance to contractors performing post payment reviews

Medicare could catch more duplicative payments if it improved post payment reviews done by independent contractors, a recently released July 18 Government Accountability Office report says. The GAO says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services doesn't have the information it needs to know whether contractors are conducting inappropriate duplicative claims reviews because CMS doesn't adequately monitor data on the contractors.

EEOC: Discrimination payouts were up more than 18 percent in fiscal 2012

The amount the federal government paid out in Equal Employment Opportunity claims rose more than 18 percent in fiscal 2012 over the previous year, a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report says. Agencies paid about $51.4 billion in benefits to EEO complainants in fiscal 2012 through administrative judges' decisions. That number came in at $43.5 million in fiscal 2011, the EEOC report says. Another $10.8 million was paid out due to appeals decisions. That number is up from $9.2 million in fiscal 2011.

GSA and Air Force partner to look at savings in GSA contracts

The General Services Administration and the Air Force established a working group to help identify ways to save money on enterprise-wide contracts, an Aug. 18 GSA blog post says. The working group will look into which GSA contracts the Air Force can use to cut costs, but still complete its mission, the blog post says.

IG: USPS has hands tied with workers' comp laws

Under current employee compensation laws, federal workers have little incentive to return to work, which lowers productivity and increases costs, a recently released Postal Service inspector general report says. USPS paid out about $1.3 billion in 2013 in workers' compensation. That's a 35 percent increase from what the agency paid out in 2008 despite significant cuts to its workforce, the report says.

EEOC: Diversity in federal workforce remained unchanged from fiscal 2010 to 2011

According to the latest data for fiscal 2011, there were more than 2.8 million federal workers across the country and worldwide. Of the total federal workforce, 56.19 percent were men and 43.81 percent were women. The number of women in the federal workforce dipped slightly from almost 44 percent in fiscal 2010 after a period of rising female employment.

USPS moves ahead on plant consolidations, lawmakers and unions speak out

The Postal Service will move ahead with its consolidation of processing facilities after the second phase of the project was postponed earlier this year despite postal unions and some lawmakers coming out against the plan. The Postal Service inspector general, who is looking into whether the consolidation makes sense, says USPS will close (pdf) up to 82 mail processing facilities starting in January 2015, a year after the agency postponed the closings.

USPS OIG plans to better leverage digital services

The Postal Service inspector general plans to push digital services and modernization at its office to better investigate and audit the USPS, the inspector general's five year plan says. In its fiscal 2014 to 2018 strategic plan (pdf), the USPS IG laid out its vision for recommendations its plans to explore for the Postal Service.

Report: Impact of advocate to enhance contract competition across Postal Service unclear

An internal watchdog said it couldn't determine the impact of a U.S. Postal Service position whose job is to promote greater contract competition across the agency because no metrics were developed to measure the position's performance.

McDonald: VA needs unprecedented cultural change

Fixing the Veterans Affairs Department will take an unprecedented culture change in the agency, but it will give the VA an opportunity to overhaul the failing system, newly-confirmed VA Secretary Robert McDonald said at an Aug. 13 speech at the AMVETS National Conference in Memphis, Tennessee. McDonald laid out the major problems facing the VA, including veterans waiting too long for care, performance metrics becoming an end in themselves, poor leadership, no accountability for poor performing managers and an antiquated scheduling system.

CBO: No sequestration cuts needed for rest of fiscal year

The fiscal 2014 omnibus appropriations bill that President Obama signed in December contained enough spending cuts to avoid across-the-board sequestration cuts for the rest of the fiscal year, an Aug. 15 Congressional Budget Office report says. The CBO is required to report on sequestration cuts in January and August of each year. Minor adjustments to the budget caps have been made since the January report, but CBO says its assessment remains the same.

Fifty senators call for USPS to hold off on closing processing plants

Fifty senators on both sides of the aisle called for a one-year hold on the Postal Service's plans to shut down dozens of mail processing plants and cut thousands of positions in an Aug. 14 letter to appropriations leaders. They say it would burden local communities and the economy.

Per diems stay the same for traveling feds

Per diem rates for federal workers won't change in fiscal 2015, according to an Aug. 13 General Services Administration notice published in the Federal Register. The standard lodging per diem rate will remain at $83 and meals and incidental expense tiers, ranging from $46 to $71, also remain unchanged.

IG: USPS needs to better leverage assets to serve the government

By leveraging digital infrastructure, address databases and delivery networks, the Postal Service could do a better job of serving the government and reducing agency costs, an Aug. 11 USPS inspector general report from a roundtable discussion says.

Gallup: Americans say gov't biggest problem facing country, overwhelmingly disapprove of Congress

Government is the most important problem to Americans right now and has been for most of the year, a Gallup poll released Aug. 13 says. About 18 percent of Americans say government is the biggest problem while 15 percent maintain it's immigration, the poll says. About 14 percent say the economy is their top worry.

Government transparency groups call for CIA director's resignation

About 20 government transparency groups have called for the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan citing abuses of power that include obstructing and spying on a Senate committee that was investigating the CIA's use of torture.

NASA support specialists overwhelmingly vote to join union

More than 300 NASA professional support specialists voted Aug. 12 to join the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers union, an IFPTE statement says. Professional support specialists include budget analysts, secretaries, administrative specialists and policy analysts.