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OPM to announce new student loan forgiveness program

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Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., tomorrow morning will announce a new program to forgive the student loans of people who work in the public and nonprofit sectors for 10 years. Sarbanes’ Public Service Loan Forgiveness Option will cover civil servants, as well as teachers, some health professionals and public interest attorneys.

And beginning July 1, people enrolled in the program might also be able to lower their monthly student loan payments based on a debt to income ratio. Take a look at this online calculator from the Education Department to find out if you might qualify for an income-based repayment plan, and if so, how much your monthly payments might be.

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Public discussion on official secrets starts today

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To follow up on Gregg’s earlier post…

The White House is also hosting an online discussion about how it should revise the policy governing classified national security information.

Until Wednesday, the Public Interest Declassification Board will host a “Declassification Policy Forum” through the White House Open Government Blog to take comments on President Barack Obama’s May 27 memo ordering a review of the executive order outlining classification policy.

Through the discussion, the White House hopes to answer the following:

  • “Are you satisfied with the current executive order? What has worked? What hasn’t worked? What should a new executive order include that is not in the current order?”
  • “How can the government make the declassification process more transparent?”
  • “Should the government prioritize what it declassifies? If so, based on historical significance or other criteria?”

To view or participate in the discussion click here.

If online discussions aren’t your thing, but you want to let your voice be heard, the declassification board is hosting a traditional public hearing at the National Archives and Records Administration’s Washington, D.C. headquarters on July 8. The Federal Register has details on how to participate. You can also email comments to the board directly at pidb@nara.gov.

Deadline for open government drafts

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The White House is extending the deadline to submit draft proposals of open government recommendations. The recommendations came in last month, during an online dialogue hosted by the White House and NAPA; now the administration is asking citizens to turn the recommendations into full-fledged proposals.

The new deadline is July 6 (Monday).

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Multiple Award Schedule Panel finalizes report

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The incoming General Services Administration chief should no longer require vendors to give the government their best prices, according to an advisory panel. Instead, GSA should insist that agency customers buying products and services worth at least $100,000 from GSA’s federal supply schedules program obtain at least three bids from vendors before making a purchase.

These and other recommendations are outlined in a report finalized by the Multiple Award Schedule Advisory Panel today. The 15-member panel was formed last year by former GSA Administrator Lurita Doan to suggest ways to improve the federal supply schedules program, also known as the multiple-award schedules program. The panel is made up of industry officials, procurement experts and agency officials. 

The panel said requiring vendors to offer the government their best prices was of “questionable” value. That’s because agencies using the supply schedules can obtain deeper discounts through negotiations and competition.

The panel also recommended that GSA:

  • Develop a market research tool to capture and share the prices buyers obtained for their orders. The tool will help other buyers determine if the prices they’re quoted are fair and reasonable.
  • Regularly review pricing on federal supply schedule contracts to ensure they reflect market changes.
  • Require firm-fixed pricing for orders that combine products and services, known as solutions.
  • Periodically consult with agencies and industry to ensure federal supply schedule offerings are relevant to customer needs.
  • Determine if the length of a GSA schedule contract should be shorter than the current 20-year maximum.

Martha Johnson, President Barack Obama’s choice to lead GSA, said at her confirmation hearing this month that she would consider recommendations made by the panel.

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House passes DOD authorization bill

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The House passed the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act in a 389-22 vote today.

The House version of the bill would suspend the use of public-private competitions for federal jobs for three years, end the department’s pay-for-performance system and direct new contracting reforms.

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Supplemental bill to close pay gap for overseas diplomats

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The $106 billion war supplemental bill President Barack Obama signed yesterday will start closing the pay gap between Foreign Service officers in Washington and overseas beginning this fiscal year. The bill for the first time authorizes diplomats abroad to receive the same 23.1 percent locality payment they would receive if they were stationed in the Washington area.

The bill does not spell out how much the State Department and other foreign affairs agencies such as the Agency for International Development should pay Foreign Service officers this year. The American Foreign Service Association suggested closing the gap by one-third — or 7.7 percent — in fiscal 2009, and similar increases in fiscal 2010 and 2011.

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House passes sick leave credit for FERS employees

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The House approved a measure tonight that would allow federal employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System to count their unused sick leave toward their retirement pension calculations. The measure could bring the newer FERS system in line with the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), which always allowed that calculation.

The Disabled Military Retiree Relief Act of 2009, H.R. 2990, passed in a 404-0 vote. It now moves to the Senate, which stripped similar provisions from a bill giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco.

In addition, to allowing FERS employees count sick their unused leave toward retirement, the bill also allows FERS employees who return to federal service to get credit for their previous service and to redeposit their retirement annuities.

CSRS employees also benefit from the bill. The legislation lets CSRS employees who choose to work part-time at the end of their careers collect their full annuities.

The bill also extends locality pay to Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories. The transition to locality pay will start in 2010 and end in 2012.

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H.R. 22 passes subcommitee

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H.R. 22 was approved this morning by the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia (say that five times fast…). Now it goes to the full committee.

More details to come over on the Web site.

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Food drive update: Donate the last Friday of each summer month

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Federal agencies will start collecting food nationwide under the Feds Feed Families program this week, the Office of Personnel Management said. Canned and other unperishable food items will be picked up the last Friday in June, July and August, but agencies will put out cardboard collection bins a few days earlier, OPM Director John Berry and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said at a press conference at a Northern Virginia food pantry.

OPM itself already has filled the 10 cardboard bins it has at the entrance to its Washington headquarters three times over, Berry said. The government hopes to collect 1 million pounds of food by the end of summer.

OPM launched the food drive because food banks often run low during the summer months, when people are often on vacation and forget to donate. Also, low-income children who are on summer vacation don’t get school lunches or breakfasts and could go hungry, Berry said:

So right when parents need the most help and they turn to the community food banks, unfortunately many of those shelves are getting thin, because the demands in our economic times are tough. [...] Federal employees know how blessed they are. They’ve got good jobs, they’re respected by their nation. This is an opportunity for them to give back to their communities and I know they’re going to step up to this plate.

And Berry said OPM is cooking up a contest to see which agency can donate the most pounds of food per employee, though he hasn’t yet settled on a prize.

OPM plans to track how much food has been donated at the drive’s official Web site, www.fedsfeedfamilies.gov.

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Fed food drive sets lofty goal: one million pounds

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The Office of Personnel Management has a lofty goal for federal workers this summer, challenging them to donate one million pounds of food to the Capitol Area Food Bank.

OPM Director John Berry and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., will announce details of the “Feds Feed Families” national food drive Tuesday afternoon at Food For Others’ Virginia warehouse in Fairfax. They’ll be joined by Lynn Brantley, director of the Capitol Area Food Bank.

President Obama has called upon all Americans to give back to their local communities, and the federal workforce has quickly mobilized. This is an unprecedented undertaking by federal workers to meet the needs of our neighbors by collecting one million pounds of food in this short amount of time,” Berry said in a news release.

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