Reforming the Defense Contract Audit Agency will be the topic at a Sept. 23 Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.
The hearing will examine who is responsible for reforming the DCAA, which lawmakers have discussed relocating to ensure independence from the Defense Department’s comptroller. In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office found that DCAA managers pressured field auditors to change audit results to favor contractors and ignored basic auditing standards to expedite work and meet rigid performance standards.
The hearing will be 10 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., and the Federal Times will be there.
The Interior Department will phase out its controversial royalty-in-kind program, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced at a hearing this morning.
Interior’s Minerals Management Service is responsible for collecting revenue from oil and natural gas projects on federal lands.Â The RIK program collects those royalties as oil or gas instead of cash; the government then sells the minerals and sends the revenue to the Treasury.
But the program has been plagued for years by ethical problems and accounting difficulties. The program puts MMS managers — federal employees — in the odd position of acting like oil or gas salesman. Managers often don’t know whether they’re collecting the correct amount of oil or gas, or selling it at the appropriate price. The non-profit Project on Government Oversight exhaustively documented the problems with the RIK program in a report last year. And a GAO report released this week (pdf) found serious auditing problems with MMS’ natural gas RIK program.
Salazar said today that a replacement program will be phased in. We’ll have more details this afternoon.
The House of Representatives finally voted to approve H.R. 22, 388-32, more than eight months after it was introduced.
The bill allows the Postal Service to pay health benefits for its current retirees out of a trust fund earmarked for future retirees. As Rebecca noted earlier, postal managers describe H.R. 22 as a necessity given their $7 billion budget deficit this year. The Postal Service needed to make a $5.4 billion payment into the retiree trust fund by Sept. 30, but the agency doesn’t have enough cash to make the payment. Without H.R. 22, it will be forced to default on that payment.
The bill drew some criticism from Republican legislators earlier today, so it’s worth clarifying a few points. H.R. 22 is not a “bailout”; it doesn’t appropriate any money for the Postal Service. It simply reduces the amount the agency has to pay into the trust fund — by more than $3 billion this year — giving the Postal Service some relief from what is a rather exceptional pre-funding requirement. (No other federal agency is required to pre-fund health benefits for its retirees.)
H.R. 22 has been widely supported by postal management and postal labor unions. Its companion legislation in the Senate, S. 1507, is not so popular.
Tags: Postal Service
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs contracting oversight subcommittee, plans to dive into the way federal agencies track government procurement data at a hearing scheduled for Sept. 29.
In a news release today, McCaskill’s office said the hearing will “assess the problems of the decentralized and cumbersome systems presently in place, and discuss current plans to develop a new platform for integrating these systems to ensure that goals of efficiency, transparency, and accessibility are met.”
The Federal Acquisition Regulation Council recently published a proposed rule to fulfill congressional mandates to integrate data from the Federal Procurement Data System, Past Performance Information Retrieval System and the Excluded Parties List System in one database. The idea is to make it easier for contracting officers to gauge whether a contractor is a responsible to do business with by having the information available in one place.
Vivek Kundra, the federal Chief Information Officer; William Woods, acquisition and sourcing management director for the Government Accountability Office; Adam Hughes, federal fiscal policy director for OMBWatch; and Trey Hodgkins, vice president for national security and procurement policy at TechAmerica are scheduled to testify.
And this FedLine Blogger/Federal Times reporter is scheduled to attend.
Within the next few hours, the House of Representatives may make a crucial decision regarding the fiscal future of the U.S. Postal Service.
Due to a $7 billion deficit, the Postal Service can’t make its scheduled Sept. 30 payment to its retiree health benefits fund. HR 22, which the House debated Tuesday afternoon, would reduce this payment from roughly $5.4 billion to slightly more than $1 billion.
Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., praised the bill as a necessary move to protect retirees while Congress debates the future of the Postal Service. Towns is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees Postal Service issues.
We owe it to our postal workers to try to find a solution to this problem.”
A vote on HR 22 is likely this afternoon after the House finishes debate on a resolution chastising Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., for calling President Barack Obama a liar during Obama’s address to Congress last week.
Members of the House’s Washington, D.C.-area delegation are urging lawmakers to keep a series of civil service reforms in the final version of the fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization bill.
The bill provides the long-desired FERS sick leave credit, which would allow sick leave to count as time served when calculating pensions.
The provisions in the bill are the same as those contained in a bill introduced by Rep. James Moran, D-Va.
“We’ve been working for a number of years to enact these common-sense federal employee reforms,” Moran said in a statement. “The House-passed Defense Authorization bill provides our best opportunity yet to bring needed incentives that will increase worker productivity and help recruit and retain the best and the brightest back to the federal civil service. I look forward to working with my colleagues to see that these provisions survive the House-Senate conference committee process.”
Members of the Washington delegation sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House Oversight and Government Reform and House Armed Services committees, saying the benefits are important to federal employees.
All of these provisions address key issues of fundamental fairness and efficiency for federal employees within the Department of Defense.”
Co-signers to the letter are: Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.; Elijah Cummings, D-Md; C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md.; John Sarbanes, D-Md.; Donna Edwards, D-Md.; and Gerald Connolly, D-Va.
Other benefits included in the Defense Authorization bill are:
- Locality pay for federal employees in Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories.
- CSRS employees would be allowed to work part-time at the end of their careers and collect full annuities.
- FERS employees who leave government and return would receive credit for their previous federal service and be allowed to redeposit their retirement annuities.
The Senate voted 57-40 Thursday to approve the nomination of Cass Sunstein to be administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, ending a months-long debate over Sunstein’s writings as a professor and his ideological views.
At least two senators had placed holds on Sunstein’s nomination, due to concerns about his opinions on gun control and animal rights. Sunstein, a Harvard University professor, met with the senators, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and John Cornyn of Texas, and assured them he respected the Second Amendment and would not limit hunting or impose stricter gun control. The holds were then lifted.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed cloture on Sunstein’s nomination, limiting time for debate. His nomination was discussed Thursday in between tributes to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., praised Sunstein’s selection on the Senate floor before the Wednesday cloture vote. Lieberman chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which cleared Sunstein’s nomination months ago.
I’m convinced that Professor Sunstein has superior qualifications for this office and a strong commitment, if confirmed, to guide OIRA in conformity with the law and public interest above all.”
“Be prepared,” that’s the Girl Scout motto. And now, a Girl Scout can earn a new, government-approved patch when she lives up to that ideal.
Today, the Homeland Security Department and the Girl Scouts of the USA unveiled the “preparedness” patch and a corresponding program to encourage young women and their families to be prepared for emergencies like storms, pandemics or terrorist attacks.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who is a former Girl Scout, said:
This new preparedness patch will increase citizen preparedness and enhance our country’s readiness for disasters.”
To earn the patch a scout must identify and prepare for emergencies, learn about emergency warning systems and complete community service.
No word on whether a box each of Thin Mints and Tagalongs would be a required addition to any emergency preparation kit, but this FedLine blogger (who was sadly not a scout) would strongly support such a move.
The congressionally chartered commission called a hearing for Sept. 14 in the wake of a Sept. 1 Project on Government Oversight letter to the department alleging employees of the private security contractor Armour Group North America engaged in lewd acts and hazed junior employees, compromising the security of U.S. diplomats at the embassy in Kabul.
The hearing will focus on “the underlying questions of what the State Department contract require[s] of contract-employee conduct, how thorough its contractor-selection process is, how contract performance is monitored, and how shortcomings are addressed,” Commission Co-chair Michael Thibault said.
Co-Chair Christopher Shays said federal departments need to ensure “contractors are doing thorough vetting, ensuring training and compliance with codes of conduct, and enforcing contract terms that represent the high ideals of America.”
Leadership changes are on the way at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Commissioner for Patents John Doll will retire on Oct. 2 after 35 years at the agency, the Commerce Department announced Thursday in a news release. He will be replaced by long-time patent employee Robert Stoll, who has been nominated by David Kappos, undersecretary of Commerce for intellectual property and director of the Patent and Trademark Office.
Kappos also named Margaret Focarino as deputy commissioner for patents.
The commissioner for patents is appointed by the Commerce secretary for a five-year term after being nominated by the undersecretary of commerce. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said he supports Stoll’s selection and hopes it will bring more efficiency to the patent office.
I have directed the USPTO to pursue an aggressive agenda to significantly reduce the time it takes to process patent applications. The length of time it takes causes uncertainty for inventors and entrepreneurs, stifles innovation and impedes our economic recovery. Bob’s deep knowledge of the Patent Office will make him an important addition to the senior management team as they reform the system and help us regain America’s competitiveness.”