Tuesday federal headlines – January 12, 2016

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on the Federal Drive.

NASA is opening a new office to track asteroids and comets that come too close to Earth. The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) formalizes the agency’s existing program for detecting and tracking near-Earth Objects. The office will remain within NASA’s Planetary Science Division, which is in the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. About 1,500 NEOs are...

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The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on the Federal Drive.

  • NASA is opening a new office to track asteroids and comets that come too close to Earth. The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) formalizes the agency’s existing program for detecting and tracking near-Earth Objects. The office will remain within NASA’s Planetary Science Division, which is in the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. About 1,500 NEOs are now detected each year. (JPL)
  • Public-sector unions could soon lose a significant amount of revenue from non-union employees. NBC News reports the Supreme Court appears likely to rule against the unions’ ability to charge non-member employees agency fees to cover the costs of negotiating contracts. The case involves a California teacher arguing that forcing her to pay these dues to the teachers union when she is not a member violates her right to free expression. The court’s decision is expected by late June. (NBC News)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is proposing a rule to establish a timeframe for filing appeals against agency decisions on Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance claims. The rule would provide a three-year time limit for individuals seeking judicial review of FEGLI decisions. (Federal Register)
  • The Department of Health and Human Services needs more coordination and comprehensive planning to meet national healthcare workforce needs, according to a new study from the Government Accountability Office. GAO says HHS’ current programs’ strategies do not explicitly reference workforce issues or specify how these programs contribute towards HHS’s current strategic goals and performance targets. (GAO)
  • New toolkits on the Pathways program and workshops on the federal hiring process are coming out later this month. The Office of Personnel Management said it’s on track to publish a guidebook and start its workshops for HR specialists this year. It’s part of OPM’s Hiring Excellence Campaign. The agency is also on track to make more incremental changes to USAJobs.gov throughout the year. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House on Monday passed a bill that will update the 50-year-old Freedom of Information Act.The bill narrows exemptions under which a federal agency can withhold information, and it requires agency-wide training on how to handle information requests. The bill’s passage comes on the same day a report was issued from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In the report, lawmakers claim the current process for requesting information is broken. This results in long delays and high fees for documents that should be readily available to anyone. (Federal News Radio)
  • Eric Fanning is stepping out of his role as acting Army secretary to focus on being confirmed by the Senate in the near future. The Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concerns over Fanning’s designation as acting secretary under the Vacancies Act. DoD said it expects Fanning to be out of the office for a short duration and to be confirmed quickly. In the meantime, Undersecretary of the Army Patrick Murphy will serve as acting army secretary. In other defense nomination news, President Barack Obama nominated Todd Weiler as assistant secretary for defense for manpower and reserve affairs. Phillip Cullom withdrew his nomination to be assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Management and Budget said agencies are more successful in delivering technology programs. The latest data on the Performance.gov website shows 80.3 percent of all projects are within 10 percent of their cost estimates. OMB also says 79.3 percent of all projects were within 10 percent of their delivery schedules. These latest results of both the cost and delivery of programs are increases from 2014 data that was 2 to 3 percentage points lower.
  • At Health and Human Services, management needs to do a better planning job for programs that support training and education for health care workers. That’s according to a new Government Accountability Office study. Auditors said support programs lack focus on specific fields needing more healthcare people. Veterans Affairs has an ongoing staff shortage at its San Francisco hospital, according to its AFGE local. The union calls on Congress for help.