Friday federal headlines – April 8, 2016

The Defense Department says it's cut the number of security clearance holders by 900,000 as a result of policy changes to address potential insider threats.

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

  • The Defense Department says it has cut the number of security clearance holders by 900,000. The Federation of American Scientists said this was an intended consequence of policy changes to address potential insider threats. About 3.7 million employees and contractors at DoD hold security clearances. (Federation of American Scientists)
  • The Postal Service is getting kicked while it’s down. Starting Sunday, the price of a first class stamp will go down by two cents, to $0.47. That’s because a temporary price hike granted by the Postal Regulatory Commission in January 2014 will expire. The PRC had granted the surcharge because of the recession. Postmaster General Megan Brennan said the two-cent drop, plus other price cuts, will reduce revenue by $2 billion as USPS faces mounting losses. (USPS)
  • The Office of Personnel Management has changed the definition of a spouse for the Family and Medical Leave Act. The new definition allows federal employees with same-sex spouses to use FMLA leave the same way as feds with opposite sex spouses. The change brings policy in line with a 2013 Supreme Court decision upholding same-sex marriage.
  • A senator wants answers from agencies trying to standardize how they report financial information.  Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has asked 37 agencies for progress reports on the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act. It requires governmentwide data formats for financial information. Warner wants to know what the agencies have spent on carrying out the Data Act and what help they might need. The law sets a deadline of May 2017.
  • A Defense Department memo gives a behind-the-scenes look into the reforms Defense Secretary Ash Carter unveiled earlier this week. The memo recommends some actions Carter did not explicitly mention publicly. Those include elevating U.S. Cyber Command to a full combatant command and conducting joint reviews of major acquisition systems. The memo also recommends what actions Carter ruled out — creating a general staff and merging the Defense Logistics Agency with U.S. Transportation Command. (Federal News Radio)
  • A report from the Government Accountability Office says the processing of tax returns in 2016 has gone smoothly so far despite staffing and budget shortages. Head of the National Treasury Employees Union, Tony Reardon, said the agency has lost more than 22,000 full and part-time employees nationally and $1.2 billion in funding over the last five years. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department gives more details on its plan to change accountability procedures for senior executives. It wants to create an internal board of senior health executives to review disciplinary appeals cases for medical center directors and other health care executives. The VA also wants to change the appeals process for all other senior executives. It suggests the Merit Systems Protection Board itself should review disciplinary appeals, instead of board’s administrative judges. This comes as negotiations between the House and Senate VA committees over a veterans omnibus package have stalled. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agencies are doing a better job in managing and overseeing contracts for cloud computing services. The Government Accountability Office reports of the 21 contracts reviewed across five large agencies, a majority of them met at least 7 of the 10 key practices. GAO said of the contracts it reviewed,  the departments of Homeland Security and Treasury did the best in terms of meeting all 10 key practices. These key practices include defining roles and responsibilities, clear performance measures, security and non-compliance penalties. (Federal News Radio)

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