Monthly Archives: September, 2009

Senate considers continuing resolution

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The Senate may vote on a continuing resolution late this afternoon, just hours before the end of the fiscal year at midnight. The House passed the CR Sept. 25, which includes additional funding for veterans health care and the Census Bureau. All other federal agencies would operate under fiscal 2009 funding levels until their appropriations bills are passed or the CR expires Oct. 31. We’ll keep you posted on any congressional action on the continuing resolution.

Sen. Robert Bennett Joins Oversight Subcommittee

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Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, made his debut as ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight today. During the hearing on improving government procurement data systems, Bennett spoke of the importance of balancing the need for transparency with the need to protect some contract information from the public eye. (Check FederalTimes.com later for more on the hearing) Industry representative, Trey Hodgkins, national security and procurement policy vice president for TechAmerica, testified that companies were concerned new policies might permit the publication of un-redacted contracts and allow access to past performance reports, which could contain…

New Recovery.gov goes live

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You can visit it here, obviously. I got a preview of the site on Friday, along with about a dozen other journalists, at a session hosted by the “RAT board” and Smartronix, the company that developed the site. Overall it’s a big improvement over the previous Recovery.gov site. The new site includes a mapping feature that allows you to view spending data by state, county, and congressional district; it also contains exponentially more spending data than the previous site. There are still some glaring omissions: You can’t enter the name of a contractor and view all contracts awarded to that…

Eliminating FEHBP? Not so fast.

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Sen. Charles Grassley has introduced a health care amendment that would eliminate the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, but feds shouldn’t panic that they’ll be losing their health coverage as recent news stories have hinted. Grassley’s amendment would have ended FEHBP and required feds to purchase insurance through state-based exchanges, just as average civilians would. But a modified version of the amendment accepted Tuesday as part of the Senate Finance Committee chairman’s mark weakens the language, allowing federal workers the option of leaving the FEHBP and enrolling in state exchanges. Grassley, R-Iowa, offered his amendment to draw attention to a…

Yet another FAA authorization extension

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The House passed a temporary Federal Aviation Administration authorization extension Wednesday, giving the Senate until the end of the year to pass the full reauthorization bill. The temporary extension won’t be a surprise to the FAA, which has been operating under them since its authorization expired during the last Congress. The sixth temporary extension expires Sept. 30. The new extension goes until Dec. 31 and allows the FAA to continue to collect and spend revenues. The House passed a multiyear reauthorization bill, HR 915, in May, but the bill has stalled in the Senate, just as it did in the…

More concerns about DCAA audit opinions

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Earlier today I previewed reports the Government Accountability Office and the Defense Department Inspector General will release tomorrow highlighting the depth of auditing problems at the Defense Contract Audit Agency. But these watchdogs are not the only ones with concerns about DCAA’s audit management. The Wartime Contracting Commission — a bipartisan, congressionally chartered panel tasked with making recommendations to improve contingency contracting — released this report today calling on DCAA to abandon the all-or-nothing approach it takes when rendering opinions on contractor business systems. In December, DCAA scrapped its opinion that allowed business systems with minor deficiencies to be deemed…

VA employees offer 3,000 ideas for improvement

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President Barack Obama said in August he wanted to hear from Veterans Benefits Administration employees on how to improve the agency, and employees are responding. In the first week, the survey site for VBA employees was visited 29,000 times by 7,000 employees, who submitted more than 3,000 ideas, said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and VA Chief Technology Peter Levin in a blog post on whitehouse.gov Monday. Obama said he wants employees to contribute their ideas to solving its claims backlog and improving agency efficiency, and the survey is yielding results, Chopra and Levin wrote. Employees can also vote…

The incredible shrinking government

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The federal government may be growing under President Barack Obama, but a just-released report shows the government is actually getting smaller. Confused? It turns out that while federal agencies are hiring more workers, they’re also getting rid of thousands of buildings they no longer need. The number of buildings in the federal inventory declined nearly 9 percent in 2008, or roughly 70 million square feet, according to a report posted today by the General Services Administration. GSA attributes the decrease to a reduction of 36,000 military housing units and 4,000 warehouses by the Air Force and Navy.

House to take up continuing resolution

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The House will take up a continuing resolution this week to keep agencies operating at fiscal 2009 levels while Congress completes the 12 annual appropriations bills, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Sept. 17. The CR will not come up before Wednesday, according to the tentative House floor schedule. A final vote has not been scheduled, so it’s unclear if the CR will be finished this week. The House has passed all 12 of its fiscal 2010 appropriations bills, while the Senate has passed six. The end of the fiscal year is Sept. 30, and agencies have adapted to the…

Ron Howard developing IRS sitcom

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Is the IRS funny? Famed director Ron Howard thinks so. Howard and his producing partner, Brian Grazer, are the team behind the critically-acclaimed and ratings-challenged “Arrested Development.” Howard may need to tap that blend of hysterical awkwardness with his new sitcom, which will be centered around an Internal Revenue Service field office. Trade publication The Hollywood Reporter first announced the project. The show has a pilot commitment with Fox, which means the network will pay to develop the first episode of the show, known as a pilot, and will pay a penalty to Howard and Grazer should it not pick…

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