The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Dennis Blair has resigned under fire. The message came Thursday after an Oval Office meeting with President Obama. Congressional staffers say that by the end of the meeting, Blair had “lost the confidence of the president.” Blair has been on the job for 16 months. His tenure filled with public intelligence failures and turf battles. Blair’s last day is May 28th.
At least 16 people later linked to terror plots managed to passed through U.S. airports undetected by federal officials on duty to spot suspicious behavior. That’s according to a new Government Accountability Office report. GAO called into question the scientific justification for the program known as SPOT, or Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques. Under SPOT, in place since 2003, anonymous federal watchers stroll through airports, trying to pinpoint potential terrorists based on their outward behavior.
Federal workers killed on the job by terrorists will get the same benefits and honors as those killed in combat, under a provision approved by the House Armed Services Committee. An amendment to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act acknowledges the sacrifice of those killed in shootings at Fort Hood and a recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas. The amendment was introduced by Representatives Mike Coffman, Republican of Colorado, and Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona. The bill, by the way, authorizes $760 billion for the Pentagon next year.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates concedes that Congress will grant service members a bigger pay raise than he wants. He told reporters, “I want change, but I’m not crazy,” according to Federal Times. Gates had pushed for a 1.4 percent raise, but the House Armed Services Committee has approved a 1.9 percent raise starting January 1. Gates estimates the difference will cost DoD $500 million. He said that money would better be used for training and equipment.
A House panel moves to set limits on how the Pentagon can bring critical jobs back in-house from contractors. The Armed Services Committee on Wednesday added a provision to the 2011 Defense Authorization bill that would stop DoD from setting arbitrary goals or targets for insourcing. Government Executive reports the change would also require both DoD and the GAO to report on the insourcing effort.
An investigation that found thousands of dollars in unauthorized purchases of clothing, gold coins, flat-screen televisions, gym memberships and college tuition payments by employees of the Federal Protective Services using government purchase cards has resulted in no disciplinary action, reports the Washington Times. According to documents obtained by The Times through a Freedom of Information Act request 21 California-based FPS employees took advantage of an 18-month transition period during which the security agency was moved from the General Services Administration to the Department of Homeland Security “to loot GSA resources by purchasing unauthorized goods,” according to the GSA’s office of inspector general.
NIH researchers often partner with industry and academia. The partnerships help researchers move their discoveries along – taking them a step closer to practical application. But those partnerships have to be very closely monitored, to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. NIH has published a notice of proposed rule making in the federal register about financial conflicts of interest for NIH-funded researchers. The notice includes language clarification and some minor changes in the existing rule. The notice is open for public comment for 60 days.
Say goodbye to those empty cubicles. The White House will issue an executive order for agencies to rid themselves of excess offices, laboratories and warehouses, Federal Times Reports. Excess real estate, including partially occupied buildings, could save the government more than a billion dollars, according to administration estimates. The new policy will call for significant reductions in rent by 2012. The order is expected in early June.
We told you it was going to happen. Now it is official. U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen is going to step down as Commandant, but he will remain on active duty. Allen has agreed to remain National Incident Commander for the administration’s response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill. Admiral Robert Papp will relieve Admiral Allen as Commandant later this month. Allen has led and coordinated ongoing federal actions to mitigate the oil spill, and says that since the spill began, his focus has been managing the “all-hands-on-deck” approach.
It is graduation season. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry will speak at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy commencement next week. His commencement address will focus on how to reinvigorate the federal workforce to meet the challenges of the 21st century. UMD’s School of Public Policy’s graduation ceremony is May 21st.
It’s a rat! No, a mouse! Actually, it was a mighty vole. As President Obama commented on the status of financial overhaul regulation yesterday, a small, black rodent darted across the steps just below the presidential lectern. The scene was caught by several news photographers. Russell Link, a wildlife biologist with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, noted the animal’s stubby tail, in ruling it out as a rat. Voles are also known as meadow mice.
* Those OPM’s hiring reforms — the goal is to streamline the process, but there is some concern that those reforms might impact the number of veterans working for federal agencies. We’ll hear from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association.
* And have you thought about working from home. We’ll get tips on working from home — successfully.