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Some TSP funds doing way, way better than others

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Hello everyone! I just wanted to share with you the TSP returns for June, with their year to date and their 12 month views as well. As you can see, things are in the black again, but some funds are growing much faster than others.

G Fund

F Fund

C Fund

S Fund

I Fund

Month

0.19%

0.14%

2.07%

4.45%

0.99%

YTD

1.17%

4.37%

7.18%

6.21%

5.06%

12 Month

2.30%

5.00%

24.71%

26.95%

23.97%

L Income

L 2020

L 2030

L 2040

L 2050

Month

0.58%

1.19%

1.52%

1.77%

1.96%

YTD

2.46%

4.14%

4.91%

5.43%

5.89%

12 Month

6.74%

13.99%

17.30%

19.70%

22.03%

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GSA turns 65 the only way possible – by talking about how much things have changed

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The General Services Administration is celebrating its 65th birthday by highlighting how much government work has changed over the decades.

Ori Hoffer, social media strategist at GSA, said in a blog post that employees used to use manual typewriters and process contract bids by hand, but now use a wide array of technology to help shorten and simplify the process.

The agency also has evolved from testing natural gas as a vehicle fuel to using electric and hybrid cars in its rental fleet.

“While the people and the technology have changed, and the mission statement may be a bit different, the goal is still the same – streamline the administrative work of the federal government,” Hoffer said.

70 years later: Remembering D-Day

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Across the Internet today people will be posting their thoughts and remembrances of a day 70 years ago when the United States and her allies invaded France and helped lead to the end of World War II. Among the other articles and galleries you read, you should take a look a the picture gallery  built by our sister publications at Military Times.

http://www.militarytimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=M6&Dato=20140604&Kategori=NEWS&Lopenr=306040065&Ref=PH

7 famous people and their less famous federal jobs: You might be surprised

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Federal employees have taken a lot of heat over the last few years. They are called overpaid and underworked. The fight over their pay and benefits has been well documented. Politicians have called for closing entire agencies, while others push bills to end the civil service .

We did this list a few years ago, but I thought it was long due for an upgrade. So here are some now very famous people who at one point would have been considered federal employees.

7. Wanda Sykes

This one is from reader Drew Fletcher, who pointed out that before she became a successful professional comedian and actress she was a contracting specialist at the National Security Agency for about five years. According to a 2010 article in the Washingtonian Magazine, she had a high level clearance as well.

Photo of Wanda Sykes, April 17, 2010, used under creative commons. Photo by Greg Hernandez (http://www.flickr.com/photos/greginhollywood/)

Wanda Sykes has made the lists of top comedians for years and has been voted one of the funniest comedians by polls of her peers. She has appeared in movies, worked as a voice actor and has been on television – both on her own shows and in others. She most recently portrayed Senator Rosalyn Dupeche in the Amazon original TV series Alpha House.

 

6. Julia Child

Julia Child was a cooking inspiration to millions of people through her television shows and her books – and perhaps one of the most famous chefs past or present. Child is first on the list because her federal career may be the most well-known.

During World War II she was turned down by the Women’s Army Corps and the U.S. Navy WAVES because she was too tall so instead she worked for the Office of Strategic Services – the precursor to the CIA.  She rose through the ranks and traveled the world, from Sri Lanka to China and I am sure did lots of other cool stuff that we will never know about.

It was after the war, when she and her husband were living in France, did she attend culinary school and walk down the path that would make her a household name.

Note: I did not add Julia Child to the list because her federal career as a spy is very well known.  Or at least not a big secret anymore.

5. Ina Garten

You might know her as the Barefoot Contessa,  a world famous Chef and TV personality. But before she decided to wow us with her self-taught culinary ability, Ina Garten was a nuclear energy budget analyst at the Office of Management and Budget under both Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Now she makes amazing meals and travels the world educating us on culinary issues.

4. Abraham Lincoln

Yes, yes, I know he was a member of Congress and one of our most famous presidents. But did you also know he was the Postmaster in New Salem, Ill, for almost three years? He became postmaster on May 7, 1833 and lost the position when the post office was relocated May 30, 1836. How did Lincoln get the gig? Well the Park Service says that its uncertain, but might have had something to do with the conduct of the former postmaster.

The women of New Salem were irritated when Samuel Hill, the former postmaster, spent more time serving the men whisky instead of taking care of postal duties. As postmaster, Lincoln was always willing to please customers and would go out of his way to do so.

Abraham Lincoln: Come for the salvation of the country and pick up your mail on the way out.

3. Walt Whitman

All right. Walt Whitman was a famous poet, and many of us read at least some of his work in high school. In fact, there are at least a few schools named after him. But once again, it seems like Whitman had to make ends meet by working for the federal government.

According to the National Archives:

Whitman lived in Washington, DC, for a decade from 1863-1873… To support himself and to help fund his work aiding soldiers, Whitman secured low-level government work–functioning mainly as a clerk, spending much of his time as a scribe or copyist. He worked in the Army Paymaster’s office, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Attorney General’s office.

2. Walt Disney

Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck and others. Walt Disney created a gigantic media empire that spans the gambit of amusement parks, new stations and even ESPN. He won dozens of Oscars (animated shorts category) and his empire was so powerful, it literally spun off other famous people. Just the Mickey Mouse Club alone helped give rise to Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

But before all that, Walt Disney was a substitute mail carrier in Chicago, Ill.

I would use a picture here, but for copyright purposes I will let you imagine a Disney picture of some sort.

1. Dr. Seuss

Ok. So we are down to No. 1, and who can possibly top everyone else on the list? Well, Theodor Seuss Geisel at least comes close. He brought us the Cat in the Hat and The Lorax, and dozens more. His work is so well known that you can call someone a Grinch and they will know exactly what you mean. His works have been translated into more than 15 languages and have sold more than 200 million copies.

They are still making movies based off of his work. (Not all of them great).

But Dr. Seuss was employed by the Treasury Department in 1942 to make illustrations for the war effort and to help sell war bonds. His federal career was brief, however: He joined the Army in 1943.

But if anyone else knows of more secret federal careers of more famous people, just add them into the comments.

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A hat tip to a site you should know about: The Government Attic

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I wanted to spend a moment today to tip my hat to the Government Attic. It’s essentially a resource for information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that is put up for anyone to look through. It’s been a fantastic source of stories for me and for others I know who follow the site.

You might remember this story about Burning Man. It was made possible with the documents stored on the Government Attic site.

The intended audience is the public, journalists, researchers and others.  It is entirely self-funded and does not accept any money from anywhere or any advertising support. Which means that the only motive here is to get the information out. Of course, the layout is a bit rough – like Craigslist circa 2004 – but its functional.

It’s consistently updated with fresh content, whether its agency inspector general reports or historic documents from agencies. The layout and functionality of the site also continues to improve.

I suggest you give it a look if you have not before, or follow it on Facebook to get continual updates.

Attention small businesses, the Coast Guard is looking for some officer swords

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The United States Coast Guard is asking small businesses for bids from small businesses for about 580 swords and accompanying scabbards, according to a solicitation posted on Fed Biz Opps on May 23. The solicitation is only for small businesses who are able to supply officer swords with specialized grips, pommels and blades with the appropriate insignia. Small businesses have until June 3, at 5 p.m. to submit their proposals.

Here are some sketches of the scabbards in question. The rest are available here.

The various views of the scabbard being asked for by the Coast Guard.

The various views of the scabbard being asked for by the Coast Guard.

 

Committee passes bill to limit Oil paintings for government officials to $20,000 each

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The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted May 21 to limit the federal dollars spent on oil paintings of government officials – and restrict who gets to have themselves painted.

The aptly named Responsible Use of Taxpayer Dollars for Portraits Act of 2013, co-sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., would permanently cap the amount of each painting to $20,000 and would limit those eligible to those in line for presidential succession.

While the government is currently prohibited from spending money on oil paintings of government officials the ban lasts only through this fiscal year, while the current legislation would be permanent. Federal officials could still use non-federal sources of money for any cost overruns.

Reports from the New York Times and other organizations have said the government spends upwards of $800,000 on oil paintings of officials and each one could cost $50,000.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., voted against the bill saying during the vote amount is still excessive, and will instead work to renew the ban through the annual spending bills.

Coburn said while he doesn’t believe the government should spend any money on oil paintings, the legislation is a compromise that has a chance of passing before the ban expires at the end of September.

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11 things you probably didn’t know were in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015

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The Capitol Building, (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Capitol Building, (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

On May 8, the House Armed Services Committee voted on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 – about 15 minutes after midnight. The committee voted on hundreds of amendments and debated the legislation for more than 12 hours before finally passing it.

You have probably heard some of the highlights of whats in the bill, but here is a longer list of stuff that made it in that you might not have heard about.

Now remember, the bill still needs to be voted on by the full House and then by the Senate, so there are still changes that can happen. But as of right now, these items are in the legislation.

1. An extension of a spending cap on contract services through fiscal 2015 – which prevents the Defense Department from cutting civilian employees and transferring the work to contractors, according to amendment sponsor Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, R-Hawaii. The NDAA caps spending on contract services at fiscal 2010 levels.

2. Another provision forces DoD  to eliminate any unauthorized personal services and contracts for any inherently governmental functions and reduce the spending on contractors for work close to being inherently governmental to “the maximum extent practicable.”

(Staff Sgt. John D. Strong II / Air Force)

3. A prohibition on DoD changing what can be sold in base exchanges and commissaries. Many lawmakers have proposed cuts to the commissary budget while others have pushed to limit sales of various items.

4 A rule requiring DoD to determine which of its workforces – military, civilian or contractor – would be most cost-effective when determining work assignments for non-critical mission areas.

5. The extension of a pilot program that allows whistleblowers to appeal cases from the Merit Systems Protection Board to any circuit court – instead of being restricted to the federal circuit court – for three more years.

6. The Defense Department would be exempt from energy efficiency measures and metering efforts identified in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Currently DoD must reduce energy use in its domestic facilities and encourage energy efficiency efforts.

7. DoD cannot build a biofuel facility without Congressional approval. Some lawmakers are concerned DoD plans to purchase or refurbish a biofuel facility.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

8. DoD must report on how much it costs to transport members of Congress on trips outside the United States.

9. A prohibition for DoD against purchasing biofuels except for testing purposes until the price per gallon is the same as traditional fuel. The Navy has been pushing biofuels as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fuel.

10. The NDAA reduces the number of enlisted aides that support general officers. Right now they are limited to 300, but the bill would reduce that number to 244.

11. The NDAA was actually renamed the “Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2015″ after the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who is stepping down at the end of the year.

 

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Tensions high after masked men threaten Bureau of Land Management workers

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Things are getting scary out west for federal workers.

On May 6 on Interstate 15 in Utah a pair of masked men in a pickup truck rode up beside a Bureau of Land Management car and, brandishing a gun and holding a note reading “you need to die” before driving off. The license plate was covered with duct tape and law enforcement has yet to locate the vehicle or the suspects.

Jeff Krauss, spokesman for BLM, said the agency is looking into the matter with the help of law enforcement.

“Threats against BLM employees will not be tolerated.  We are pursuing this matter with local law enforcement.”

The incident, first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, is one of several recent incidents where armed men have confronted federal workers and comes at a time when tensions are rising. Over the last few weeks BLM halted operations to remove the cattle of rancer Cliven Bundy, who owes more than $1 million in grazing fees and some protesters have begun driving ATVs onto federal lands to protest what they see as strict usage laws.

SILVER SCREEN FEDS: Interior IG finds Leslie Knope abused authority

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Leslie Knope (Courtesy of NBC)

Leslie Knope (Courtesy of NBC)

SPOILER ALERT: The NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation ended its sixth season last night with the endlessly-optimistic public servant Leslie Knope becoming a federal employee by accepting a job as the National Park Service’s Midwest Regional Director, and then talking her new boss into relocating the office to her hometown of Pawnee, Indiana. Which is great news for the show’s viewers, but raises troubling questions about multiple violations of civil service rules.

FedLine has exclusively obtained a copy of the Interior Department’s inspector general report into Regional Director Knope’s activities:

To: Jonathan Jarvis, director, National Park Service

From: Mary Kendall, deputy inspector general, Interior Department

Subject: Abuse of authority by Midwest Regional Director Leslie Knope, National Park Service

We initiated an audit of NPS’ abrupt relocation of its Midwest Regional Office from Chicago to Pawnee, Ind., after receiving several complaints from long-time NPS employees. We found multiple irregularities and violations of federal hiring authorities and facilities regulations on the part of newly-hired Regional Director Leslie Knope and her supervisor, Grant Larson.

Finding: The office’s relocation to Pawnee was highly irregular.

Mr. Larson agreed to relocate an entire office, staffed with dozens of employees who resided in Chicago, on Ms. Knope’s recommendation. While Pawnee’s lower cost of living, proximity to many national parks and access to above-average breakfast food is advantageous, NPS did not conduct a full and open competition to decide which city to relocate the regional office to, in violation of federal regulations.

Once the decision to move to Pawnee was made, Mr. Larson failed to conduct a full and open competition to find acceptable office space, instead taking Ms. Knope’s word that renting the third floor of the Pawnee City Hall would be most cost-effective.

"Give me all the bacon and eggs you have." (Courtesy of NBC)

“Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.” (Courtesy of NBC)

The recent renovation of the third floor was apparently done in his spare time by Pawnee Parks and Recreation Director Ron Swanson. While Mr. Swanson’s woodwork appears exemplary, we have concerns that a federal workspace was renovated without proper oversight, inspections and approvals.

In an interview, Mr. Swanson did not directly respond to our request for inspection records. He instead fixed a long, unbroken stare on investigators, and silently directed their attention to what appeared to be a Claymore land mine positioned on his desk. When we asked if the Claymore remained operational, Mr. Swanson giggled. Investigators advise that the presence of possible live explosives near a federal workspace represents an unacceptable risk.

In addition, NPS has received multiple EEO complaints about the murals on display in Pawnee City Hall, many of which have been called offensive to Native Americans, Asian Americans, Irish Americans, Jewish people, women and Presbyterians. The continued display of the murals may constitute a hostile work environment.

NPS employees also raised environmental concerns related to the move to Pawnee. Environmental Protection Agency studies have consistently found concentrated high-fructose corn syrup from the Sweetums factory has leached into Pawnee’s water supply. Investigators concluded that relocation to Pawnee may present hazards to the long-term health of NPS employees.

Finding: Leslie Knope’s tenure as regional director has been marked by rampant cronyism.

Ms. Knope’s qualifications to be regional director are unassailable. Her work ethic, enthusiasm for public service, and knowledge of the fiscal and operational challenges facing parks programs are matched by none.

However, her loyalty to her friends has resulted in mismanagement of her new office, and the flagrant disregard of federal hiring regulations.

After accepting the job, Mr. Larson incorrectly told Ms. Knope that she could hire whomever she wanted. She then made multiple verbal offers of employment to her co-workers in the Pawnee Parks Department, without considering veterans preference, using the category rating system, or posting the vacancies on USAJOBS.gov. While Ms. Knope’s dedication to federal hiring reform is admirable, we remain concerned her methods overlooked qualified candidates, and did not result in the best people being hired for the job.

Her employment of Pawnee employee Terry Gergich (AKA Larry, Jerry and Gary Gergich) is an example of the problematic hiring practices in Ms. Knope’s office. Mr. Gergich was hired despite the fact that he displays no apparent skills or basic competence, and based on interviews, even appears unsure of what his actual first name is. In addition, Mr. Gergich is technically a retired Pawnee government employee, raising concerns about pension double-dipping.

During a recent visit, investigators observed Ms. Knope’s friends April Ludgate and Andy Dwyer caring for her three children. It was unclear whether Ms. Ludgate and Mr. Dwyer remain government employees, but if that is the case, their provision of child care services during work hours to Ms. Knope would also present an ethical violation.

Conclusions

While Ms. Knope’s behavior has been problematic, we find that it would not be cost-effective to find another location for the Midwest Regional Office at this late date. It is also too late to root out Ms. Knope’s friends and associates from National Park Service positions without generating lawsuits. We advise Ms. Knope be reprimanded and told not to do it again.

The General Services Administration’s Office of Inspector General has been advised of our findings and is preparing its own investigation.

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