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NASA extends deadline for SEWP contract — again

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NASA has once again extended the deadline for bids on its $20 billion Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) V contract, the agency announced Friday.

The due date for bid proposals has been extended several times and is now set for Dec. 10, according to a notice on fbo.gov. The 16-day government shutdown in October played a role in earlier delays, the agency said.

In a Q&A document also released Friday, one vendor requested an extension to the due date following amendments to the RFP earlier this month. NASA is giving vendors an additional week from its most recent  Dec. 3 deadline.

The SEWP V contract will provide agencies with desktops, laptops, servers and other information technology equipment.


NASA issues call for innovative technology

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NASA is looking for cutting-edge technology that can revolutionize aerospace technology, according to a Nov. 15 press release.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program (NIAC) offers as much as $100,000 to help study potentially groundbreaking technology that is at least 10 years from being operational, according to the agency.

NASA is accepting short proposals until Dec. 18. The agency will pick from among the applicants to write longer proposals due March 2014.

“Our NIAC program provides an on ramp for early stage technology concepts to take seed and potentially create revolutionary new capabilities for space exploration that might one day change how we live and work as we explore the cosmos,” said NASA’s associate administrator for space technology Michael Gazarik.

Past NIAC proposals have included ideas such as using electromagnets to protect spacecraft from radiation and a solid-state air purifier, according to NASA.

NASA sets due date for $20B IT contract

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NASA has extended the deadline for bids on its $20 billion Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) V contract, following last month’s government shutdown.

The agency has extended the due date to Nov. 15, according to an online notice. Originally, companies had until Oct. 14 to bid.

NASA said the 16-day shutdown delayed its response to industry’s questions as well as changes to the solicitation.

The contract will provide agencies with desktops, laptops, servers and other information technology equipment.

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Many feds get shutdown-related back pay ahead of schedule

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Thousands of federal workers got a welcome arrival in their bank accounts today: An ahead-of-schedule deposit for back pay owed from the partial government shutdown.

While the Obama administration had said that the money would show up in employees’ next paychecks after the shutdown ended last week, the Interior’s Department’s Business Center scheduled an “off-cycle” payment today for most Interior employees, along with many of those at NASA, the National Science Foundation and 39 other agencies who also get their paychecks through the center, spokesman Mike Fernandez said in an email.

The payments came one week ahead of the next normal biweekly pay date, Oct. 29, Fernandez said, and represented an effort “to provide retroactive pay as quickly as possible.” The center, which last month suffered a processing glitch that delayed some paychecks, handles payroll for about 240,000 employees.

Glitch means no paychecks today for thousands of feds

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For 40,000 federal employees, this has not been a happy Friday.

The reason: They didn’t get paid.

Because of problems at the Interior Business Center (IBC), which handles payroll processing for numerous agencies outside of the Interior Department, paychecks that were supposed to be direct-deposited today didn’t go through, spokesman Michael Fernandez said in a statement later posted on the center’s website. Paychecks will now be deposited Tuesday, he said. The affected employees work in 23 of the 42 agencies served by the business center. They represent about 17 percent of the 240,000 workers paid through the IBC, according to the statement. Affected agencies include the Securities and Exchange Commission, NASA, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the National Labor Relations Board.

According to Fernandez, the problem resulted when the payroll file sent from the business center to Treasury contained the official pay date of Sept. 17 for the electronic funds transfer, not the expected date of Sept. 13. “Efforts to process a new payment file were unsuccessful,” he said.

The center is working on a plan to prevent this from happening again, Fernandez said. Although most of its customers are not affected, he added, center officials know that this is a “serious matter” and sincerely regret “any inconveniences the error may have caused.”

Joe Ward, the center’s director, referred questions to Fernandez’s office. The snafu highlights the fact that to ‘facilitate processing of payroll in a timely manner,” the center in at least some cases routine deposits payroll money early to banks. As some commenters have noted, the employees are still ostensibly being paid on time, but that may not mean much if–for bill-paying purposes–you assumed that the money would be in your account by Friday. As they say in politics, it’s all about expectations.

The Interior Business Center has begun contacting about 1,800 financial institutions to let them know about the mistake and asking them to work with customers, according to Fernandez’s statement. “Some banks have already agreed to recognize the payments” as if they had been actually made on Friday, the statement says.



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Association of Government Accountants honors agency reporting

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Twenty agencies big and small were recently noted for top-notch financial and performance reporting by the Association of Government Accountants.

The “Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting” (CEAR)  singles out “high-quality Performance and Accountability Reports (PARs) and Annual Financial Reports (AFRs) that effectively illustrate and assess financial and program performance, accomplishments and challenges, cost and accountability,” the accountants association said in a news release. The association also spotlights the teams of dedicated federal professionals who (often unsung) put the reports together.

“Given the fiscal status of the United States government and the public’s perceptions about government fiscal accountability and transparency, the achievement of this year’s CEAR recipients is even more significant,” AGA Executive Director Relmond Van Daniker said in the release. The agencies being honored “truly represent a select group within the government financial management community.”

Here’s a rundown of the winners:

Architect of the Capitol
Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Housing Finance Agency
Federal Trade Commission
Office of Financial Stability (Treasury Department)
Peace Corps
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Education Department
Housing and Urban Development Department
Interior Department
Labor Department
State Department
Treasury Department
Government Accountability Office
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Patent and Trademark Office
Securities and Exchange Commission
Small Business Administration
Social Security Administration

Also honored at the May 22 National Press Club ceremony were 10 agencies that showed “specific points of excellence” within their fiscal year 2012 PARs. Known as ‘Best in Class’ awards, the recipients included:

Health and Human Services Department: Best Summary of Management and Performance Challenges by the Inspector General
Labor Department: Most Complete Schedule of Spending
Peace Corps: Most Comprehensive and Candid Presentation of Forward-Looking Information
FTC: Best Agency Head Message
HUD: Best Presentation of a Financial Management Systems Framework
Interior: Best High-Level Discussion of Performance
Capitol Architect: Best Analysis of an Agency’s Financial Statements
FAA: Most Representative of Editorial Excellence
Department of Homeland Security: Best Improper Payment and Recovery Act Reporting
Central Intelligence Agency: Best Introduction


The best of “Silver Screen Feds” from movies and television

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Hello everyone,

My name is Andy and if you haven’t guessed it yet, I am one of the reporters here at the Federal Times. For the last few weeks we have had a new feature on our blog, “Silver Screen Feds,” where we look at famous federal employees in cinema and television. This week my partner-in-crime and colleague Steve Losey is spending time with his family, so instead of doing all the work myself, you guys get a clip-show version of everything we have done so far.

Below are each of our entries in the ongoing series, so feel free to read and enjoy them. Post your own suggestions in the comments and let us know what you think.

In our first entry I took a look at the postal workers who save the day in the 1947 classic “Miracle on 34th Street.” And Stephen examined the tragic flaws that brought down the Environmental Protection Agency’s Walter Peck in 1984′s “Ghostbusters.”


Next, we examined a far less-honorable mailman — Newman from “Seinfeld” — and the surprising heroism of Drug Enforcement Administration agent Hank Schrader in “Breaking Bad.”


In our third entry we picked two federal employees who couldn’t be any more different: Dr. Edwin Jenner, the doomed researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the zombie apocalypse show “The Walking Dead,” and Ranger Smith, the hapless National Park Service ranger who can’t stop Yogi Bear from stealing them pic-a-nic baskets.


In our fourth entry we took a trip back to the Roaring Twenties and the lawless days of Prohibition, to look at the best and worst Treasury agents who ever busted up a still on-screen: Legendary lawman Eliot Ness from the 1987 film “The Untouchables,” and deeply disturbed Agent Nelson Van Alden from HBO’s series “Boardwalk Empire.”


And in our latest entry I took a look at the best team of federal employees ever to grace the big screen: Mission control from “Apollo 13.” And keep reading for Stephen Losey’s take on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Russ Cargill, from “The Simpsons Movie” — the first character we’ve profiled who descends into outright super-villainy.


SILVER SCREEN FEDS: ‘Apollo 13,’ ‘The Simpsons Movie’

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Russ Cargill oh-so-helpfully nudges President Schwarzenegger to pick the right plan. (from The Simpsons Movie, 20th Century Fox)

Today on Silver Screen Feds, Andy Medici takes a look at the best team of federal employees ever to grace the big screen: Mission control from “Apollo 13.” And keep reading for Stephen Losey’s take on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Russ Cargill, from “The Simpsons Movie” — the first character we’ve profiled who descends into outright super-villainy.

BEST FEDS: Mission Control, NASA, “Apollo 13″ (Andy Medici)

Most of the time, being a good federal employee requires working well as a team. Being able to finish projects on tight deadlines while dealing with multiple other priorities is a staple of any fed’s tenure in government.

And in this case, there may be no better federal team in cinema than NASA’s mission control from “Apollo 13.” The 1995 film — directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and lots of other people everyone recognizes — follows the journey of the Apollo 13 astronauts as they attempt to reach Earth safely after a disaster onboard the ship renders it nearly useless.

Read the rest of this entry »

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NASA’s Spacebook website to shut down June 1

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Lower than expected usage rates have forced NASA to decommission its three-year-old social networking website Spacebook.

NASA plans to shut the site down on June 1 and archive all user accounts and content uploaded to the website, according to an internal email sent to employees last month.

“When Spacebook came, we were on the initial cusp, but with Facebook and MySpace…the marketplace is a far more challenging space,” Sasi Pillay, NASA’s chief technology officer for information technology, said during a telework event inWashington. “Even getting some tools adopted internally is hard.”

NASA launched Spacebook in June 2009 to facilitate collaboration among new and established staff and the agency’s community of scientists, engineers, project managers and support personnel, said Emma Antunes, web manager for Goddard Space Flight Center.

The internal website allows users to create profiles, show their status update and current projects, join forums and groups and share files, Antunes said in an interview Wednesday. If you had a small team, this was a great way to get around not having to email everyone and users could view past discussions.

She said the concept evolved from NASA’s need to improve teamwork, communication and access to information across its diverse projects and centers.

But “participation has not been as high as anticipated,” according to the email. “On average, only 14 users log on per weekday and zero on the weekends. There are alternate internal social media tools, such as Yammer,” that employees can access using their nasa.gov email addresses.

Users were encouraged to download any documents or media saved on Spacebook before the June deadline. Although the website is shutting down, Antunes said Spacebook is viewed as a success because it was innovative and NASA learned a lot from the project.

“In 2009, there were not a lot of products out there that could do what we wanted,” Antunes said. But social collaboration tools have evolved since then, and NASA will adopt new technology that best supports the mission.

“We need to be agile and not be wedded to any one thing,” she said.

The ideal approach is for the government to partner with vendors and influence their product offerings early on so that agencies can readily adopt them upon release, Pillay said

“Why would someone want to recreate something available in the commercial [sector]?” he said. “We should use these tools and adopt them as necessary.”

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Shuttle Discovery to buzz DC next Tuesday

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Discovery hitches a ride on NASA's modified 747 in 2005. (Photo courtesy of NASA/Lori Losey)

Washingtonians will be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime sight on April 17: The Space Shuttle Discovery buzzing the nation’s capital.

NASA yesterday announced that Discovery will cross over Washington and surrounding areas that day as it makes its way to its final home at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. If you’re anywhere near its flight path, expect to get a good look — the Boeing 747 carrying Discovery will only be 1,500 feet off the ground at times. (The Hill points out that the Washington Monument is roughly 555 feet high, to give you a frame of reference.)

The exact flight path hasn’t been set yet, but NASA plans to fly it by the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor, and the Udvar-Hazy Center before landing at Dulles.

So if you’re in or around Washington next Tuesday, get your cameras ready and expect all work to grind to a halt between 10 and 11 a.m. It’ll undoubtedly be something to see.

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