Wednesday morning federal headlines – April 4, 2012

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The Obama administration isn’t changing its policies for oil drilling on public lands. But it does want faster decisions under the policies in place. The Bureau of Land Management said it would automate the issuance of permits and leasing decisions. Now the process is done on paper. Negotiations between the government and would-be drillers can drag on for a year. Bob Abbey, director of BLM, vowed to cut that time to 60 days by May 2013. (Federal News Radio)
  • Innovate and cut costs at the same time. That’s what Federal CIO Steven Van Roekel wants federal technology managers to do. He told an audience at the FOSE trade show Tuesday that agencies can no longer count on rising IT budgets to fund innovation. Van Roekel repeated a theme he adopted since taking office last year. He wanted agencies to cut spending to maintain legacy systems. That would free up dollars for new projects. One innovation Van Roekel wanted to see was better use of the government’s vast storehouses of federal data. (Federal News Radio)
  • GSA’s acting administrator wasted no time in reassuring employees they could help correct the agency’s course. Dan Tangherlini moved over to GSA from Treasury, where he was chief financial officer. In an open letter to employees, Tangherlini said managers would review all planned and proposed conferences that involved travel. GSA was also canceling conferences that only involved internal staff. GSA was hit by the sudden departures of the administrator and Public Buildings Service commissioner. They left when an IG report detailed lavish spending on a Buildings Service conference in Las Vegas. (Federal News Radio)
  • Congress isn’t even in session, but members are blasting the General Services Administration. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, hosted a news conference to describe rampant management and spending problems at GSA. The agency was rocked earlier this week with the resignation of administrator Martha Johnson over a lavish conference. Mica complained the agency had stonewalled him on information about sales of excess federal buildings. He vowed business as usual was over for GSA. (Federal News Radio)
  • A bill requiring high-ranking feds to disclose their finances online will become law later this morning. President Barack Obama plans to sign the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, or STOCK, Act. Government watchdogs said it would impact more than 28,000 federal officials. They would have to electronically file disclosure reports and those would go online by August. The act also tightens restrictions against insider trading by public officials. (OMB Watch)
  • Veterans Affairs is breaking away from Microsoft. The agency ended its “enterprise license” for the company’s products after 14 years. NextGov reported VA spent hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Microsoft software licenses. It obtained an internal memo from chief information officer Roger Baker. He told staff the move would foster competition between vendors and let the agency explore using more cloud services and personal mobile devices. (NextGov)
  • The Postal Service is losing billions of dollars a year, and said it could run out of cash in a few months. Why, then, did it spent more than $700 million on unauthorized overtime since 2010? The agency’s inspector general blamed facility managers and supervisors. He said some aren’t keeping tabs on time cards or filling out the appropriate paperwork. The Postal Service said it would crack down by September. (USPS)
  • Canada froze spending on F-35 Joint-Strike Fighters in the wake of a scathing report. The country’s top auditor said military leaders underestimated the costs of the program and overstated the spin-off benefits for Canadian manufacturers. He said Canada couldn’t stay within its budget by simply reducing the number of planes it bought. The New York Times reported cost increases and delays in the Lockheed Martin program caused headaches for both Canada and the United States. (New York Times)
  • Telework is due for a makeover and a possible name change. Government and outside experts who spoke at a Capitol Hill forum said agencies should call it something else that emphasized work and performance. One federal consultant suggested “workforce strategy.” Gov Exec reported that agencies needed more sticks in addition to carrots. One panelist suggested reducing parking spaces at offices. (Gov Exec)