Thursday Morning Federal Newscast – April 15th

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear link promotions, salary increases and bonuses with performance. The bill would also revamp the defense acquisition requirements process and set up new metrics based on standards and goals.

  • Telework expansion moved a step closer to reality after the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed the 2009 Telework Improvements Act. The bill would guarantee eligible federal employees the right to telework at least two days of every two-week period, reports GovExec. Agencies would name telework managing officers and provide training on alternative work arrangements. Republican Darrell Issa, ranking member of the committee, warned that millions of records have been lost as a result of telework.
  • Federal Civilians serving overseas may soon see better pay and benefits. The Defense, State and Labor departments and the Office of Personnel Management have been working standardizing war zone benefits for more than a year. The Government Accountability Office found that many deployed civilians receive differing pay levels, leave benefits and medical care…all which the GAO says hurt morale. OPM Director John Berry told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee of workforce on Wednesday the plan will be submitted to congress soon. GovExec reports Berry said “one of the most significant changes in the proposal would guarantee that all civilian employees going overseas receive at least the level of locality pay in Washington, and retain their rights to the locality adjustment they earn in the United States if that rate was higher.”
  • More criticism for the Federal Protective Service. GAO officials told a House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday that FPS has repeatedly failed to manage it’s contract workforce (pdf) and should consider other approaches to protecting federal buildings. FPS Director Gary Schenkel says since the GAO investigation, FPS has increased unannounced inspections, done more training and fined contractors who don’t meet requirements. GovExec reports members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee plan to introduce a bill later in April to reform and modernize FPS.
  • Not so fast. That’s what a Transportation Security Administration lawyer is saying about two unions pushing for an election to represent TSA employees. TSA attorney Mark Pilcher cites a 2003 decision by the Federal Labor Relations Authority that it lacked jurisdiction over TSA and therefore cannot order an election. He also says bomb appraisal and behavior detection officers should be kept out of union membership. GovExec reports, Pilcher says Congress must act to allow unionizing of TSA workers.
  • President Barack Obama travels to the Kennedy Space Center today to explain his plans to re-energize NASA. Opposition to President’s plan to abandon the $100 Billion Constellation space flight plan has been bi-partisan. And even former astronauts are weighing in. Neil Armstrong, the first astronaut to walk on the moon, Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan-the last human to walk on the moon-warned in an open letter that the president’s plan “destines our nation to become one of second- or even third-rate stature. The Florida summit comes amid an escalating battle between the White House and Congress over the fastest and least expensive way to revitalize the space program.
  • Cloud Computing is raising diplomatic issues for the State Department. Networks that host software and hardware for multiple companies, people and agencies promote the free exchange of ideas when operated by democracies. But when the servers are located in repressive regimes, government officials might lay claim to the information. Alec Ross, senior adviser for innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Next Gov that he is concerned about the cloud’s potential threat to civil liberties. During a major policy speech in January, Clinton announced that Internet freedom would become a strategic priority for the United States in 2010.
  • New tax breaks enacted last year are causing confusion for taxpayers and enforcement problems for the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Inspector General for tax administration at Treasury. As of March 5, the IRS erroneously gave out $24.2 million in Making Work Pay tax credits. But the news is not all bad. The agency issued a total of $25 billion worth of the credits during the period, and the error rate was less than one-tenth of 1 percent. The report shows that the IRS is detecting and stopping more erroneous refunds this year.
  • CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes, who has supervised the agency’s counterterrorism operations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will retire in May. According to CIA officials, he will be replaced by the service’s top analyst, Michael J. Morell. He takes over the No. 2 position at a time when the CIA is battering the al-Qaeda terrorist network with an escalating campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan and setbacks, including a suicide bombing that killed seven agency employees and contractors near the Afghan city of Khost in December. CIA officials portrayed the move as part of a long-expected transition. Kappes has made clear his desire to retire and was talked out of doing so twice by the President.
  • Federal agencies could receive money set aside for planning presidential transitions, under a new proposal in Congress. The Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act would also formalize successes from the last changeover in power. Government Executive reports, among other things, the bill includes provisions to set up a council of agency transition directors, made entirely of senior career employees. The measure would also require GSA to provide eligible candidates with fully equipped office space, communication services and also to start the security clearance process for potential employees.
  • If you send public tweets, your work may be forever preserved and accessed. The Library of Congress has announced plans to archive all Twitter posts, since the micro-blogging site launched in 2006. That’s 50 million tweets a day! But you’ll have to wait before you can download all that info. The Library has agreed to keep a lid on them for six months, before making them available to everyone.

  • More news links

    Federal IT Execs, Staff Disagree On Cybersecurity (InformationWeek)

    Northrop Grumman Wins Follow-On Enterprise Human Resources Integration Blanket Purchase Agreement (AFCEASIGNALScape)

    Obama ordering review of mines with spotty records

    New rules proposed on garnishing federal benefits

    US military testing high-tech dirigibles in Utah

    Taxpayers foot State Department’s stiff liquor bill (WashingtonTimes)

    And Finally

    Another kind of blizzard is headed to Washington today. This time, it won’t shut down the city for days. The Washington Business Journal reports Dairy Queen will park its Blizzardmobile outside the IRS building at 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. and hand out free Mini Blizzards. The window of opportunity for free ice cream is short. Dairy Queen says the truck will be there from noon to 1 p.m.

    Other Tax Day freebies include offers from Maggie Moo’s, Cinnabon, Taco Del Mar, P.F. Chang’s, McCormick & Schmick’s and many Whole Foods grocery store locations are also running deals and discounts all day.

    Meanwhile, tax payers can grab a free cup of brewed coffee all day at Starbucks locations as long as they bring their own mugs. That deal is part of an Earth Day promotion, not a Tax Day giveaway.

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