Tuesday federal headlines – November 10, 2015

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on the Federal Drive and In Depth radio shows.

  • When employees leave work to serve in the military, their jobs are protected by law. But it’s a law that even federal agencies break. The Office of Special Counsel represents federal employees in these cases. In fiscal 2015, it helped an Air Force reservist who took leave from his job as a U.S. Marshal to serve overseas. Upon his return, the agency gave him a bad performance rating, which it blamed on his absence. The Marshal Service agreed to go back and upgrade the rating, grant him a time-off award, and give him more paid leave after the Special Counsel intervened. (OSC)
  • The Commerce Department is launching a new data service. Secretary Penny Prtizker announced the creation of this new organization yesterday. It’s goal is to develop cutting-edge software and Web services to improve access to and use of departmental data resources of all 12 bureaus.  Commerce Chief Data Officer Ian Kalin will lead the team that will  make it easier for users to navigate online resources and databases. The Data Service team will also create tools to enhance data sharing and dissemination and maximize the value of Commerce data through collaborations across  agencies and with public and private sector partners. (Commerce Department)
  • The Defense Department’s top weapons buyer Frank Kendall is calling on industry to spend more of its revenue on research and development. Kendall says companies are spending their money on stock buybacks, but would be better off spending it on advanced technologies. DoD requested about $75 billion for research and development of fiscal 2016. Defense companies currently spend less than four percent of their revenue of R&D. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Census Bureau will give is enumerators easier access to mobile applications and devices. The bureau recently hired AT&T under a 5-year contract. Census takers will access AT&T’s 4G network to capture and deliver sensitive survey data on-the-go in near real-time.  Census will use the AT&T Control Center to manage the devices under an internet of things platform. The agency also will be able to monitor, understand and control its wireless network usage, including managing, setting up and activating device SIM cards. (AT&T)
  • IT acquisition reform is everybody’s business. True, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act aims mostly at boosting the authority and accountability of chief information officers. But to exercise their new say-so over IT budgets and programs, CIOs need the cooperation of chief financial and acquisition officers. The Government Accountability Office’s Dave Powner says FITARA implementation will work best with air cover from the assistant secretary of a department. In the first congressional scorecard, using GAO data, no agency received an ‘A’ for FITARA implementation. (Federal News Radio)
  • NASA is developing a roadmap for the data and sample management architecture that support robotic exploration of the solar system. NASA is seeking help from industry on what tools, resources and interfaces future users will expect or require. One of the long-term objectives of the planning is to make interfaces between data centers seamless. The roadmap will address actions from 2017 to 2026. (FBO)
  • The Homeland Security Department will have a common appropriations structure for 80 percent of its component agencies by December 2016. DHS Under Secretary for Management Russell Deyo says the entire project should be done by the end of fiscal 2017. Better budget allocation is one of his top four priorities for the final year of the Obama administration. Deyo said  components are starting to think more about the department’s mission as a whole, rather than what each individual agency needs, under the DHS Unity of Effort initiative. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee today evaluates the leadership structure within the Defense Department. One of the objectives for today’s hearing is to determine how well the current chain of command — from the President to the defense secretaries to combatant commanders — functions.  Armed Services committee chairmen, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Mac Thornberry also want to know how well the acquisition and personnel systems work and expect to identify challenges and potential reforms to the DoD. 

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