Monday federal headlines – March 14, 2016

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

  • The Defense Department is not doing a good enough job to stop improper spending on travel. A report from the agency’s Office of Inspector General found DoD’s methods for fixing the problem didn’t work because it did not identify reasons for the improper payments. The IG report said the percentage of inaccurate payments made under the Defense Department Travel Pay program grew from 5 percent in 2012 to 7 percent for 2014 at a cost of $458 million. (DoD OIG)
  • Army Gen. Mike Scaparrotti was nominated as the next head of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Scaparrotti is Commander of United Nations Command and United States Forces Korea. If confirmed, Scapporratti would succeed Gen. Philip Breedlove. The position is part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (NATO)
  • President Barack Obama will have some company on his trip to Cuba later this month: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. He’ll be there to discuss opportunities for collaboration in agriculture, better understand how climate change is affecting agricultural production in Cuba and help American businesses interested in exporting to Cuba. This will be Vilsack’s second trip to Cuba. He went there in November 2015 for a series of meetings on a bilateral agricultural engagement. (USDA)
  • The Office of Personnel Management chose the company WageWorks to manage its Federal Flexible Spending Account Program. The benefits provider will provide 1.8 million eligible federal employees with an online platform for managing their Healthcare and Dependent Care Flexible Spending options. (NASDAQ)
  • Astronaut Scott Kelly announced he’ll be retiring from NASA next month. He certainly put in his hours, holding the the American record for most time in space spending 520 days there. No word on what he plans to do now, though he assured reporters it would be space-related. Kelly joined the astronaut corps in 1996. He also put in 25 years of naval service. (NASA)
  • A program fundamental to federal cloud computing has had both successes and disappointments. It’s the GSA’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, FedRAMP, designed to clear companies to provide cloud services to federal agencies. Director Matt Goodrich said that in the last 6 months, 20 companies have gotten FedRAMP approval, for a total of 60. But he acknowledged agency critics who said initial approval takes too long, and two few authorized vendors have gotten through.
  • President Barack Obama said the U.S. Digital Services Office is tackling some of the most difficult problems the country faces. He said USDS is teaming up with agencies to use big data and new technologies to cure diseases, make student aid easier to apply for and improve civic participation. The President said USDS and other digital service experts are changing the way agencies from the SBA to TSA to Veterans Affairs are serving citizens better. Obama said he wanted to institutionalize these digital services beyond his time in office.
  • The Senate is considering a few options to change the Veterans Choice Program. The Veterans Affairs Department and Congress both agreed the department’s current system to send veterans to outside care providers if they meet certain requirements isn’t working. The VA said it also needs congressional action on about 100 other legislative proposals — 40 of them are new this year. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will consider two separate bills on the Choice Program this week. (Federal News Radio)
  • Congress is taking a hard look President Barack Obama’s eighth and final budget request. It named about 100 programs that are being considered for cuts or elimination, some of which have been on the chopping block since 2009. But federal number crunchers said that’s all part of the budget process. Shelley Metzenbaum, the former associate director at the Office of Management and Budget, said the budget is a debate between the President and Congress over what’s best for the American public — and Uncle Sam’s wallet. (Federal News Radio)

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