Monday federal headlines – September 28, 2015

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on the Federal Drive and In Depth radio shows. Our headlines are updated twice per day — once in the morning and once in the afternoon — with the latest news affecting federal employees and contractors.

  • A top Navy official said it will probably take the permission of the President to use a cyber-offensive weapon. Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard said cyber weapons are following a similar trajectory as nuclear weapons did in the Cold War. Meanwhile, some lawmakers are calling on the executive branch to make cyber offensive capabilities more available. Those lawmakers believe offensive cyber weapons will be an effective deterrent against cyber attacks from other nations. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agencies are prepared if the government shuts down on Thursday. Departments posted their contingency plans ahead of potential votes in Congress this week to keep the government open for another 10 weeks. Many of the contingency plans are similar to those developed in 2013. But some like the National Park Service have made changes. The Park Service included a special events section, specifically for First Amendment activities. (Federal News Radio)
  • A government shutdown in October looks less likely, now that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is resigning at the end of October. Congressional and budget experts told Federal News Radio they were more concerned about what a conservative House Speaker could mean for a shutdown in December. The Senate votes today on a short-term continuing resolution that keep the government open through Dec. 11. Boehner indicated he plans to schedule a vote on a short-term CR that includes funding for Planned Parenthood sometime this week. (Federal News Radio)
  • Get ready for a new senior executive performance system. A final new rule from the Office of Personnel Management goes into effect Oct. 26. OPM said it’s designed to bring more consistency across government in how SESers are evaluated. Each agency must appoint a single official to oversee the performance management system. OPM will appoint someone to oversee the governmentwide effort. Rating levels for SES members will rise from three to five. And performance review boards get more say in awards and bonuses. The new rule has the support of the Senior Executives Association. (Federal Register)
  • The White House’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Team has been busily, if quietly, trying to improve government. The team published its first annual report. It cited several programs in which studying how people interact with agencies can lead to better performance. In one case, the team sent nine different emails to a total of 72,000 service members not enrolled in the Thrift Savings Plan. One email wording produced enrollments at twice the rate as the other eight. In another, the General Services Administration redesigned an online form for contractors. It produced an extra $1.6 million in fees in three months. The team wants all agencies to use behavioral insights to improve their performance. (White House)
  • The Senate approved $625 million in additional funding for the Veterans Affairs Department. The money would go toward completing the troubled Denver VA hospital. The Denver VA hospital project is over budget by $1 billion and well behind schedule. The provision also includes a requirement for any VA construction project worth more than $100 million to be turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers. The House plans to vote on a similar bill on Tuesday. (Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs)
  • The way the Coast Guard is processing Freedom of Information Act requests needs some work. The Office of Government Information Services said  the Coast Guard’s process is too decentralized. But it’s done a good job keeping the backlog down with three full-time staff members. The Coast Guard received about 3,200 FOIA requests and processed about 2,600 of them in 2014. The backlog has a little more than 1,600. Two out of the three employees who process requests are contractors. (Office of Government Information Services)

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