Wednesday federal headlines – September 16, 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.

  • The Pentagon appears headed to a separate personnel system for its civilian employees. A draft version of recommendations awaits action by Defense secretary Ash Carter. They ask Congress to put DoD directly in charge of its civilians. The measure would remove them from the civil service system run by the Office of Personnel Management. It’s all part of the DOD’s force-of-the-future project. The committee drafting the recommendations noted that DoD now operates 66 personnel systems just for its civilians. (Federal News Radio)
  • Army Secretary John McHugh has warned sequestration would put the Army in what he called a very bad place. He said it would have to stop performing certain missions. It faces a reduction in force when conflicts potentially involving the United States are breaking out all over the world. He says a 50,000 Army civilians could also lose their jobs. (Federal News Radio)
  • Housing and Urban Development’s attempt to move its financial management system to a shared service provider is underfunded and moving too quickly. That’s according to HUD’s inspector general. The IG said the New Core Project is not ready for its upcoming deadlines. The IG said HUD needs to reevaluate its timeline. The project is scheduled to hit a benchmark associated with budget execution, accounting and finance on Oct. 1. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal chief information officers see a silver lining in the massive data breach suffered by the Office of Personnel Management. In an exclusive Federal News Radio survey, federal CIOs said the breach, which impacted 22 million current and former federal employees, served as the much-needed wake-up call to get non-IT senior executives to pay more attention to cybersecurity. A majority of the respondents say they are getting more money and more people to work on cyber issues. A strong majority of the respondents also said the OPM breach got non-IT workers to pay attention to cyber. (Federal News Radio)
  • Phase retirement has come to Environmental Protection Agency. EPA said the program is now available for most retirement-eligible employees. Under the program these employees will be allowed to work half-time, or 40 hours during an 80-hour pay period.  Half their income will be from their federal salary and half from their CSRS or FERS annuities. Workers selected for the program must spend 20 percent of their time mentoring others. And they must have been employed full-time for three years before going into phased retirement. EPA continues to negotiate program mechanics with employees in the National Treasury Employees Union. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration has revived a working group to address multiple and conflicting flight plans. FAA first stood up the working group in 2012, but a 2015 audit found continued problems with conflicting flight plans. A series of whistleblower complaints highlighted the dangers and forced the FAA to rethink its approach. Multiple flight plans can cause collisions between aircraft or accidents from wake turbulence. FAA said the original working group had little impact because senior officials did not perceive the problem as significant. (OSC)
  • Agencies saved nearly $2.9 billion dollars through IT reform efforts over the last five years. But the Government Accountability Office said poor implementation of White House guidance cost the government another half a billion dollars in potential savings. GAO found agencies also missed an opportunity to reinvest savings. Auditors said only five agencies fully implemented OMB’s cut-and-invest strategy, while 22 put partial plans in place. GAO said this led to agencies falling substantially short of OMB’s overall goals to reduce IT spending by $7.6 billion dollars and reinvesting at least half that amount. (GAO)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department doesn’t know how much its Veterans Benefits Management System will cost, nor how much longer it will take to build. Auditors said the incremental timeline the VA has followed so far gives no indication of when it will be able to automatically process pension and disability claims. The Government Accountability Office said 95 percent of veterans’ disability claims are electronic and already live in the benefits system. But it said the VA needs a better plan for how it will meet its future goals. (GAO)

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