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Obama administration renewing focus on IT acquisition

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For anyone familiar with last fall’s disastrous rollout of the healthcare.gov website (and that presumably includes most of the adult population of the United States), it will come as no surprise to hear that the Obama administration is again working to get smarter delivery of information technology services.

“We’ve learned a tremendous amount from the challenges the administration’s recently faced and have worked  diligently to address this past year,” Beth Cobert, a senior Office of Management and Budget official, said at a recent Association of Government Accountants gathering. “But we know that information technology is important to how the government works today and will be more important to the government going forward.”

As a result, the administration has “a focused effort under way to look at this,” said Cobert, who became OMB’s deputy director for management in October. That includes “many, many conversations” with government employees, contractors and IT firms that do no government business to gather ideas and to think about potential improvements.

There will be more to come on the subject in the months ahead, Cobert said, “but it’s clearly an area that I’m focused on and my team is focused on.”

 

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Washington, D.C. federal offices open under two-hour delay Friday

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After getting a snow day Thursday, federal employees in the D.C. region can arrive up to two hours late at  their offices Friday, and also have the option of unscheduled leave or telework, the Office of Personnel Management has just announced.

With Monday a federal holiday, some feds may have been hoping for a five-day weekend. That’s still an option, but for tomorrow, it will have to be on their own time.

Washington, D.C-area feds getting a snow day

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Federal offices in the Washington, D.C. area will be closed Thursday, the Office of Personnel Management has announced. The early call came Wednesday evening as snow is already accumulating.

As usual, emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agencies’ policies. But for those who have the chance to sleep a little later tomorrow morning, enjoy it. And stay safe.

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So what’s up with agency attrition rates?

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Every year, tens of thousands of federal employees retire or otherwise leave their jobs. But some agencies have much higher turnover rates than others. That data nugget is buried in a recent Government Accountability Office report examining government workforce trends. From fiscal 2004 through 2012, the average annual government retirement rate was 3.5 percent, the average resignation rate, 2.4 percent, for a combined “separation rate” of 5.9 percent, according to the report.

But when GAO reviewers looked at 24 individual agencies, they found a pretty big spread around that average. During that 2004-12 period, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency had an average yearly separation rate of 4.3 percent, less than half the figure for the Office of Personnel Management. Here is a ranking of the agencies culled from the GAO numbers. While workforce age would clearly be one factor in explaining the variations, are there others that come to mind?

1. Environmental Protection Agency

Retirement: 2.5%

Resignation: 1.8%

Total: 4.3%

2. Justice Department

Retirement: 2.2%

Resignation: 2.3%

Total: 4.5%

3. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Retirement: 3.1%

Resignation: 1.7%

Total: 4.8%

4. Transportation Department

Retirement: 4.2%

Resignation: 0.9%

Total: 5.1%

5.  Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Retirement: 3.2%

Resignation: 2.2%

Total: 5.4%

6. Department of Health and Human Services

Retirement: 2.5%

Resignation: 3.0%

Total: 5.5%

7. Social Security Administration

Retirement: 4.2%

Resignation: 1.5%

Total: 5.7%

8. Department of Veterans Affairs

Retirement: 3%

Resignation: 3.1%

Total: 6.1%

9. Housing and Urban Development Department

Retirement: 4.2%

Resignation: 2.0%

Total: 6.2%

10. Department of Homeland Security

Retirement: 1.6%

Resignation: 5.0%

Total: 6.6%

11. General Services Administration

Retirement: 3.7%

Resignation: 2.9%

Total: 6.6%

12. Agriculture Department

Retirement: 3.9%

Resignation: 2.8%

Total: 6.7%

13. Interior Department

Retirement: 3.6%

Resignation: 3.1%

Total: 6.7%

14. Energy Department

Retirement: 4.3%

Resignation: 2.6%.

Total: 6.9%

15. State Department

Retirement: 2.7%

Resignation: 4.2%

Total: 6.9%

16,  Labor Department

Retirement: 3.6%

Resignation: 3.4%

Total: 7.0%

18. U.S. Agency for International Development

Retirement: 4.1%

Resignation: 2.9%

Total: 7.0%

19. Defense Department

Retirement: 3.5%

Resignation: 3.6%

Total: 7.1%

20. National Science Foundation

Retirement: 3.2%

Resignation: 3.9%

Total: 7.1%

21. Treasury Department

Retirement: 3.6%

Resignation: 4.0%

Total: 7.6%

22.  Education Department

Retirement: 4.3%

Resignation: 3.7%

Total: 8.0%

23. Small Business Administration

Retirement: 5.4%

Resignation: 2.9%

Total: 8.3%

24. Office of Personnel Management

Retirement: 3.7%

Resignation: 7.2%

Total: 10.9%

 

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Postal Service announcing 1Q financials tomorrow

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Just a heads-up that the U.S. Postal Service will be announcing its first-quarter fiscal 2014 financial results on Friday morning. Because of the holiday shipping season, the first quarter is typically the Postal Service’ s strongest, so it will be interesting to see whether the steady (albeit relative) improvement in USPS finances continued in the three-month period from October through December.

The numbers typically are released at a Board of Governors meeting. In this case, however, the Postal Service plans to announce them via a news release, followed by posting of the full quarterly report. Federal Times will have the story.

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Washington, D.C.-area federal offices are open Wednesday

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The icy rain pelting the D.C. region notwithstanding, federal agencies are open today, the Office of Personnel Management says,  but employees have the option of unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Click here for the advisory posted on OPM’s website. Stay safe!

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GSA “Billionaire” parody creator files copyright, lawmaker wants it back

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On April 2, 2012 a General Services Administration Inspector General report detailed wasteful practices at an $823,000, 2010 regional conference in Las Vegas, leading to the ouster of GSA’s top leadership and reforming government conference spending.

A music-video parody of Travie McCoy’s music video for ‘Billionaire‘ featuring Bruno Mars by then GSA employee Hank Terlaje titled “The Commissioner Project” and shown at the conference quickly became one of the most famous – or infamous – parts of the ongoing scandal.

It’s also quite catchy. (Full disclosure: Terlaje says in the song that every time he closes his eyes he sees his name on Federal Times.)

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But recently Terlaje received a copyright for the work and one key lawmaker is saying it is ineligible.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini Feb. 4 and said the video was created using government resources – including employees and facilities – for a government event and is there ineligible for a copyright.

“As the video appears to have been filmed at federal government facilities, with GSA personnel, and for the express purpose of use at an official event, the committee is concerned that securing a private copyright on such work is inappropriate. Any such copyright would appear to rightfully belong to the federal government,” Issa said in the letter.

Issa is requesting all agency documents and communications regarding the production and creation of the work and any and all communications regarding Terlaje and the video.

The video shows Terlaje in a cubicle and other office spaces as well as on the beach and in parks.

I have reached out to Terlaje for comment and will update if I receive any response. Or if he reads it here he can always email me at amedici@federaltimes.com.

With stamp prices set to rise, legal challenges filed

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The price of a first-class stamp rises from 46 to 49 cents tomorrow and the cost of a host of other mail products and services will also increase following regulators’ decision last month to grant the U.S. Postal Service a temporary emergency rate increase.

As FedLine noted a couple of days ago, both the U.S. Postal Service and a mailing industry coalition planned to contest (albeit for different reasons) the Postal Regulatory Commission’s ruling. In appeals Thursday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, both camps followed through. You can read the USPS filing here and the industry’s here, but neither spells out the grounds for their respective appeals. They will have to do so by Feb. 24, under a schedule released Friday by the court clerk’s office.

In a news release, industry leaders called the PRC’s ruling mistaken and warned that it could boomerang on the Postal Service. “The evidence used to secure this increase, more than three times the rate of inflation, is fundamentally flawed, and thus inherently inaccurate,” said Mary Berner, president and CEO of MPA–The Association of Magazine Media. “Increased rates will only result in more lost volume for the Postal Service. . . . This counterproductive decision should be returned to sender.”

 

 

 

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Postal Service, mailers poised to challenge exigent rate decision

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In granting a emergency postal rate hike last month, the Postal Regulatory Commission left both sides unhappy: The mailing industry, represented by an umbrella group known as the Affordable Mail Alliance, was displeased that the five-member commission agreed to any increase above the inflation rate; U.S. Postal Service leaders were frustrated that the boost will be temporary, ending once $2.8 billion is raised.

Now, the two camps are both preparing to appeal the decision in court. The Postal Service will file its challenge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by Thursday’s deadline, spokesman Dave Partenheimer said in a Wednesday email, while proceeding with implementation of the increase on Jan. 26 (this coming Sunday), as previously announced. Also on Thursday, the mailers alliance will file an intent to appeal the commission’s decision, an industry source said.

 

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D.C.-area federal offices open Wednesday under delayed arrival

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Federal offices in the Washington, D.C. region will be open Wednesday, but with employees allowed to arrive up to two hours later than usual, according to an Office of Personnel Management advisory. Workers will also have the option of unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework, OPM said.

Wednesday’s delayed opening comes after federal agencies in the area were closed Tuesday because of a winter storm.