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Impact of Postal Service job cuts varies by organization

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Lest anyone forget, today’s the last  day on the job for some U.S. Postal Service administrative employees who agreed to leave or retire early in return for a $20,000 buyout. It’s part of an organizational “redesign” aimed at cutting some 3,000 administrative positions, or almost 21 percent of the total.

But that overall number masks some pretty big differences in how the reductions are being apportioned among different USPS organizations.

At Federal Times’ request, the Postal Service provided a breakout of the impact on area offices, district offices and headquarters and HQ-related field units, such as the USPS accounting service center. The chart includes the initial number of positions, the projected level after the redesign takes effect and the difference between the two figures.  (Fed  Times has added the percentages.) Proportionately, the numbers show that area offices are taking the biggest hit, losing more than 27 percent of their posts. HQ and its field units get off much easier, with about a 16 percent reduction. District offices are in the middle.

Asked why  HQ and its field units are taking the smallest share of the cuts percentage-wise, spokesman Mark Saunders said “because our plans are to continue to identify opportunities to consolidate and centralize work into our centers.”

USPS ORGANIZATION BASE NEW REDUCTION
HEADQUARTERS & HQ FIELD UNITS 7,276 6,099 -1,177(-16.2%)
AREA ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES 1,123 817 -306(-27.2%)
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES 5,791 4,347 -1,444(-24.9%)
TOTAL: 14,190 11,263 -2,927(-20.6%)

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OPM: Treat transgender employees with respect

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Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry today sent a memo to agencies answering common questions about how transgender and transitioning employees should be treated in the federal workplace.

“Managers and supervisors should be aware that not all transgender individuals will follow the same pattern, but they all are entitled to the same consideration as they undertake the transition steps deemed appropriate for them, and should all be treated with dignity and respect,” OPM wrote in its guidance.

There are several stages in the process of transitioning from living as a male to living as a female or vice versa, OPM said. First, an individual starts seeing a mental health provider to decide how they might go about transitioning. The second step is usually hormone therapy. And after a period of time on hormone therapy, the person will then live full-time in his or her transitioned gender role for at least a year before becoming eligible for gender reassignment surgery. This “real life experience” is usually when an employer becomes aware that the employee is transitioning to another gender, OPM said.

At this point, the transitioning employee should be allowed to use restrooms or locker rooms designated for his or her new gender, OPM said. There’s a little wiggle room there. OPM said “a reasonable temporary compromise may be appropriate in some circumstances,” but the transitioning employee should not be required to have undergone or show proof of gender reassignment surgery or other medical procedures to use the facilities. OPM also said a transitioning employee must not be required to use facilities that are unsanitary, potentially unsafe, or unreasonably far away from his or her work station.

And as soon as someone starts openly transitioning, OPM said supervisors and co-workers should start using that person’s new name and the pronoun appropriate for his or her new gender identity. And OPM warns supervisors and co-workers not to purposefully refer to a transitioning employee by his or her old name, gender or pronoun. This “may undermine the employee’s therapeutic treatment, and is contrary to the goal of treating transitioning employees with dignity and respect,” OPM said.

As part of the “real life experience,” transitioning employees start dressing at all times in clothes appropriate for his or her new gender identity. OPM said an office shouldn’t use dress code rules to prevent the employee from living in his or her new gender identity.

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Bills attempt to preempt executive order

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In direct response to a presidential order under consideration, lawmakers today introduced two bills to prevent federal agencies from collecting or using information about contractors’ political expenditures.

Several lawmakers – most of whom are Republican – have asked the president to abandon his plans for an executive order, a draft of which was leaked last month, that would require potential contractors to report their campaign contributions and political expenditures before being awarded government contracts.

After the leak, White House officials said they are considering the policy as a way to add more transparency to the contracting process. But it has been a month with no action from the president.

So Republicans in both the House and Senate have introduced preemptive measures that would prohibit federal agencies from essentially doing what the executive order would require.

An amendment with similar language was also included in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which the House passed today.

The opposing lawmakers, backed by contractor groups, argue that the executive order could silence contractors’ support of political groups and politicize the federal procurement process.

They say the president is trying to override the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which protected corporate donations to political organizations and drove millions of dollars into the 2010 elections.

The president and Democratic members of Congress were unsuccessful in passing a bill last year requiring disclosure of the donors to political organizations.

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Former GSA official joins Alaska Native Corp.

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The Koniag Development Corp. has hired former GSA assistant commissioner Ed O’Hare to lead its Technology Business Sector, the company announced Wednesday.

O’Hare was the assistant commissioner for the Federal Acquisition Service’s Information Technology Services at the General Services Administration before leaving the agency in January. The FAS IT Services is the largest fee-for-service IT procurement and services operation in the federal government, with contracts exceeding $22 billion a year.

Immediately after leaving GSA, Dynanet Corp. hired O’Hare to oversee its business development and delivering services to state and federal government customers.

Now as senior vice president of the Technology Business Sector for Koniag Development, a subsidary of an Alaska Native Corporation, O’Hare will lead four Konaig subsidiaries in IT, telecommunications and information security. The companies are Koniag Services Inc., Koniag Technology Solutions, Frontier Systems Integrators and Professional Computing Resources Inc.

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Contract compliance agency seeks data

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The agency that ensures federal contractors are meeting federal employment rules is seeking more information from contractors.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) says the changes should make the process easier on contractors while also providing better data for their evaluations.

But corporate law firms and consultant groups are alerting contractors via their blogs and websites that the additional data OFCCP wants will actually be a new burden for them.

OFCCP, which checks contractors’ compliance with federal affirmative action and equal employment opportunity requirements, sends what’s called a Scheduling Letter to contractors selected for a compliance evaluation. That letter lists what data the contractor is required to submit so OFCCP can perform its evaluation.

The current form of the Scheduling Letter is set to expire on Sept. 30, prompting the proposed changes by the OFCCP which are posted at regulations.gov.

The additional information  that OFCCP is seeking includes policies for employment leave and accommodations for religious observances and practices; demographic data on applicants, hires, promotions, and terminations; compensation data for each employee by job title, EEO-1 category, and job group; and the last three years’ of veterans’ employment reports.

Corporate lawyers are encouraging contractors to provide comments to the proposed changes, which OFCCP will accept through July 11. And in the meantime, contractors should review their policies, as well as their affirmative action plans and procedures, to ensure they comply with legal requirements, law firms advise.

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Cybersecurity legislation could hit snag

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Providing limited liability protection to private companies could be a sticking point for lawmakers working to pass cybersecurity legislation.

Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., ranking member of the national security, homeland defense and foreign operations questioned whether companies that adhere to federal  cybersecurity policies should not be held liable for the impact of a breach.

Tierney also raised concerns that government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security are conducting risk assessments for companies that should be responsible for doing them.

“I don’t know why we have to give you incentives,” said Tierney, in response to TechAmerica President Phil Bond’s remarks about providing incentives for businesses that adhere to government standards. “I don’t understand the shifting of responsibility and obligation.”

In contrast, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, suggested the White House add such protections in its cybersecurity legislation proposal. At a Senate committee hearing Tuesday, Collins referenced legislation she co-authored that would provide companies limited protection for taking preventative measures.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said the issue of liability protection could be a “real obstacle” to  passage of cybersecurity legislation.

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Pawlenty: Scrap FERS pension, further freeze pay

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Tim Pawlenty (Darren McCollester / Getty Images)

Former Minnesota governor and Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty today called for scrapping the defined benefit pension in the Federal Employees Retirement System.

In a speech at the libertarian Cato Institute, which can be heard online here, Pawlenty said that federal employees should be “transitioned” from receiving both the FERS defined benefit and defined contribution plan, aka the Thrift Savings Plan, to just the TSP. This would bring federal retirement plans more in line with what the private sector offers, he said, since the private sector has largely given up on the defined benefit plan.

Pawlenty also said that federal employees receive far more compensation — both pay and benefits combined — than private sector counterparts, and that federal pay should be frozen further until the private sector catches up.

He also wants to take a look at the government’s step increase system of awarding pay increases to federal employees based on how long they’ve been in their current grade. And the federal workforce must shrink, and should only hire one new employee for every two who retire, Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty’s speech is a sign of the times. I can’t recall a prior presidential candidate ever talking about federal pay and benefits, beyond an occasional afterthought in a policy statement or letter to federal unions. But with the deficit shaping up to be a major issue in the 2012 elections and public sympathy in short supply for federal employees, they should expect more of such talk over the next year and a half — and brace themselves for bad news.

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GTSI awarded $425 million IT contract

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GTSI was awarded a $425 million contract to provide information technology to the Federal Aviation Administration, the company announced Tuesday.

The contract, which includes one base year and four one-year options, was awarded under FAA’s Strategic Acquisition of Various Equipment and Supplies program. The program’s goal is to  streamline FAA’s IT acquisition and deployment process and improve financial management, GTSI said.

The Herdon, Va.-based company’s work will include data storage and network solutions.

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GPO names Davis new technology officer

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The Government Printing Office has named Richard Davis its chief technology officer.

In his new role, Davis will oversee the Office of Programs, Strategy and Technology, which includes development of GPO’s Federal Digital System.

The next generation system provides online access to federal documents and publications.

Prior to becoming CTO, Davis served as acting superintendent of documents and managing director of library services and content management. There he oversaw the transfer of government information to the FDsys.

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Managers: What tech do you use to evaluate performance?

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Federal Times would like to hear from federal managers on what they use to evaluate employees’ performance. Specifically, what kind of software tools or programs come in handy when you’re tracking someone’s progress and deciding how he stacks up to the goals you set at the beginning of the year? (You are setting those goals, right?)

E-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com if you’d like to talk. If you’d prefer to speak off-the-record or on background, that’s fine.

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