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Update:GSA cancels Oracle IT contract

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The General Services Administration is canceling Oracle Corp.’s Schedule 70 contract for information technology services because the company failed to meet the terms of its contract agreement, the agency confirmed.

The company can finish work on existing task orders, but agencies cannot place new orders or extend existing task orders with Oracle after May 17, GSA announced on its website Wednesday. Blanket purchase agreements with Oracle through Schedule 70 will terminate on May 17. Agencies can still purchase Oracle software from technology resellers that have Schedule 70 contracts.

An Oracle spokeswoman declined to comment.

“Based on the GSA’s review of Oracle America, Inc.’s IT Schedule 70 contract… which offers only professional services, it was determined that it was not in the best interest of the government to continue the contract,” Mary Davie, an assistant commissioner at GSA, said in an emailed statement.

GSA notified agencies about the cancelled contract on the FedBizOpps website.

Oracle earned more than $387 million in total schedule sales in fiscal 2011, according to data from FedSources. The company earned more than $203 million in direct contracts across the government during that time, according to USASpending.gov.

The company had recently resolved past issues with GSA. In October, Oracle Corp. agreed to pay $199.5 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit that alleged the company intentionally gave GSA inaccurate information about discounts it gave to commercial customers and failed to pass those discounts on to the government, according to a Justice Department news release annoucing the settlement.

No reason was given for the schedule contract cancellation on the GSA website. A spokeswoman for Oracle declined to comment.

More details to come …

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Senate leader: Seniors “love to get” junk mail

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Politicians are fond of invoking the elderly on behalf of a favored cause, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took that gambit to a new level yesterday when discussing S. 1789, a bill intended to keep the U.S. Postal Service afloat. Who knew that the only thing connecting Gramps to the rest of us were auto insurance come-ons and grocery store fliers? Here, straight from a transcript in the Congressional Record, is Reid’s take on one reason for saving the Postal Service.

For seniors who cannot leave their
homes, mail carriers deliver lifesaving
medications—an important link to the
outside world. Elderly Americans rely
on the U.S. Postal Service.
I will go home tonight to my home
here in Washington, and there will be
some mail there. A lot of it is what
some people refer to as junk mail, but
for the people who are sending that
mail, it is very important.
And talking about seniors, seniors
love to get junk mail. It is sometimes
their only way of communicating or
feeling they are part of the real world.
Elderly Americans, more than any
other group of people in America, rely
on the U.S. Postal Service.”

Reid, by the way, is 71. FedLine’s not sure what to make of that.

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IG: GSA commissioner’s wife had her own parking spot

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GSA Inspector General Brian Miller testifies April 18 / Tom Brown

General Services Administration regional commissioner Jeff Neely’s wife had her own parking space at a federal building, the agency’s inspector general said today — even though she is not a federal employee.

The revelation was the latest nugget to come out of the ongoing conference spending scandal that has already brought down large swaths of the agency’s leadership. And judging by IG Brian Miller’s comments to the Senate Appropriations financial services and general government subcommittee, plenty more is likely to come out. The OIG is conducting “many more investigations,” he said, though he could not say exactly how many.

“Every time you turn over a stone, we find 50 more … instances” of wrongdoing, Miller said. “We find one thing after another.”

Miller said that his office only discovered today that Neely’s wife Deborah had her own space throughout 2012.

Neely apparently brought his wife along to multiple GSA events, including a 2009 scouting trip to Las Vegas to prepare for the infamous 2010 Western Regions Conference — an excursion that resulted in some embarrassing photos.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., criticized Neely earlier this week for allowing his wife to take part in agency events at taxpayer expense.

“The impression conveyed by these documents is that Mr. Neely and his wife believed they were some sort of agency royalty, who used taxpayer funds to bankroll their lavish lifestyle,” Cummings said at a hearing Monday.

Neely, who is the Region 9 commissioner for GSA’s Public Buildings Service, is on administrative leave.

Miller told the Senate subcommittee — as he also did yesterday — that Neely often put people down who tried to raise concerns about the spending habits at GSA’s Region 9 and “squashed [them] like bugs.” As a result, a culture grew where people were afraid to speak up when something was wrong.

But that is now changing, Miller said.

“We have been receiving a lot of whistleblower complaints since this report was released,” Miller said. “It has gotten tremendously better.”

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Arbitration ahead for Postal Service and National Association of Letter Carriers

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Well, that didn’t take long. Less than a month after National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando said the union was “committed” to reaching agreement on a new labor contract through mediation, it’s now headed to binding arbitration with the U.S. Postal Service, according to a release posted on a USPS site. The arbitration process will wrap up later this year, the Postal Service said.

A NALC spokesman had no immediate comment this morning.

The news comes three months after impasses were declared in the Postal Service’s negotiations with both the NALC and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. Although the unions’ previous contracts officially expired in November, the terms remain in effect until new agreements are reached. After an impasse, the next step is normally mediation, followed by arbitration. Talks with the mail handlers union remain in mediation, according to the Postal Service.

Although both USPS and union negotiators are typically tight-lipped about the status of contract talks, there’s no question that the latest round has been exceptionally difficult. The National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association and the Postal Service are already in arbitration. Although the Postal Service clinched a new contract last year with the American Postal Workers Union, the final deal created a two-tier wage system that means new hires will make 10.2 percent less on average.

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Postal union consultant calls on Postal Service to think bigger

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Six months after its hiring by the National Association of Letter Carriers, the Lazard Group is out with recommendations for turning around the U.S. Postal Service. Not surprisingly, the Wall Street firm doesn’t see salvation in USPS management’s current strategy, which involves cutting lots of jobs, post offices and processing plants.

“Instead of focusing on shrinking its network and capabilities, the Postal Service needs an ambitious rethinking of its business model,” says the six-page “white paper.”

As an alternative, Lazard calls on the Postal Service to exploit its “last mile” delivery advantage to keep expanding its parcel business and offer new products and services. While recently announced initiatives like expansion of direct mail offerings to small business customers are a start, they “will require far more aggressive roll-out and many more such ideas to better leverage the Postal Service’s last-mile advantage,” according to the paper.

Along the same lines Lazard also urges the mail carrier to get into new lines of business. Although the paper doesn’t say whether changes to existing legal restrictions should be considered, it notes that the German postal service has privatized and moved into logistics and freight forwarding. Finally, Lazard suggests that–in the context of “shared sacrifice”–the Postal Service have more freedom to raise rates (you can be sure that’s gotten the attention of the mailing industry).

The paper was released Tuesday, the same day the Senate took up S. 1789, the first major piece of postal legislation to make it to the floor of either chamber since passage of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Lazard called the bill a “stop-gap measure that facilitates the Postal Service’s ‘shrink to survive’ plan.”

That critique brought a chilly response from Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., one of the measure’s sponsors. In a statement, Carper labeled the Lazard paper “thin on data, analysis or fresh ideas for modernizing the Postal Service.

“Rather, it’s thick with tired attacks on the Postal Service and mischaracterizations of the bill before the Senate . . . which, I might add, is the only bipartisan proposal in Congress that stands a chance of preventing a total collapse of the Postal Service in the coming months.”

The NALC announced the hiring of Lazard, as well as that of former presidential adviser Ron Bloom, in October.

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An historic day in Washington — Discovery’s final flight

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Here are a few pics to enjoy of Discovery’s amazing flight into Washington today …

NASA Space Shuttle Discovery arrives at Dulles International Airport. Photo by John Bretschneider/Staff

The space shuttle Discovery flies her last mission over Washington DC. before landing a Dulles International Airport where the shuttle will then go on dispay at the Smithsonian April 17, 2012 in Washington DC. Thomas Brown/Staff

 

Spectators at the Washington Monument watch as space shuttle Discovery flies her last mission over Washington DC. before landing a Dulles International Airport where the shuttle will then go on dispay at the Smithsonian April 17, 2012 in Washington DC Thomas Brown/Staff

Congratulations, Eileen!

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We offer a big congratulations and best wishes to our friend and former colleague Eileen Sullivan at the Associated Press who yesterday won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

Many of you may  remember Eileen’s great work for Federal Times back in 2003-2005 when she covered our homeland security beat. She broke a number of stories for us, including stories in late 2004 and early 2005 about how the Homeland Security Department imposed — and then later rescinded — a highly controversial policy that required employees to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to gain access to unclassified information marked “for official use only” and “sensitive but unclassified”.

Eileen won the Pulitzer yesterday (as well as, in March, the coveted Goldsmith Award for Investigative Reporting) for her work as part of a team of four AP reporters who broke an important series of stories on  how the New York Police Department, assisted by the CIA, developed a sprawling covert human intelligence operation targeted at New York City’s Muslim community.

We’re very happy for you, Eileen!

Postal unions to take their case to income tax filers Tuesday

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Even if fewer people mail their income tax returns in this era of electronic everything, plenty of last-minute filers will likely be showing up at post offices today to meet the IRS’ deadline. Two unions plan to use the opportunity to press their case against proposed U.S. Postal Service cutbacks.

The American Postal Workers Union and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union are teaming up to do “informational leafleting” at numerous post offices around the country, particularly those that draw media coverage because they stay open late.

“We’re trying to just educate the public as to what would happen to the Postal Service if Congress doesn’t act,” NPMHU President John Hegarty said in a phone interview Monday.

In an apparent coincidence, the Senate will again try today to take up a bill that—as originally proposed—would let the Postal Service tap surplus pension contributions to pay for buyouts and early retirement incentives for up to 100,000 USPS employees. A procedural vote to move forward is set for 11:10 a.m. Washington time. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and the bill’s other sponsors will need 60 votes to prevail; a first try last month garnered only 51. If they prevail in this round, they are expected to proceed with an amended bill that could be quite different from the original measure.

The Postal Service, which has lost almost $14 billion in the last two years, says it has to close post offices, slash the number of mail processing plants and end most Saturday delivery under a long-term plan to regain profitability. But postal unions say the cutbacks would “inflict long-term damage to the nation’s mail system,” according to a copy of the leaflet to be distributed tomorrow.

[Post updated at 9:14 a.m. Tuesday to note Senate vote this morning.]]

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Agriculture Department headquarters buildings to reopen Tuesday

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Several U.S. Agriculture Department headquarters buildings closed by a fire Monday will reopen Tuesday, according to information posted on the agency’s web site.  The buildings include the Jamie L. Whitten Building, the Reporters Building, and the South Building, the department said. While the web posting does not mention the Cotton Annex, also closed today, that facility will be reopening as well, USDA spokesman Justin DeJong indicated in an email.

“All employees are to report in accordance with their established tour of duty.” according to the web post. Some 6,300 USDA workers are on administrative leave today, DeJong said earlier.

 

 

 

Your thoughts on public service

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May 6 marks the beginning of Public Service Recognition Week. For this occasion, Federal Times invites you to share your thoughts on the state of federal public service.

These are trying and uncertain days for federal employees. Their compensation and contribution to the nation are under scrutiny like never before. Public support for federal employees is low. The nation’s leaders are engaged in an important debate on how to readjust the size and role of government. Meanwhile, federal employees are retiring in large numbers.

We invite you to write a short, candid essay — between 300 and 500 words — on the state of federal public service and on what, if anything, should be done to improve it. The essay will be considered for publication in our May 7 issue and on our website.

Please submit your essay no later than Friday, April 20, to Markie Harwood at mharwood@federaltimes.com.