Monthly Archives: March, 2011

OMB explores open source for IT Dashboard


Following criticisms about inaccurate cost ratings and scheduling information on a White House website, the Office of Management and Budget is turning to software developers for help. On Thursday, OMB released the software code used to develop the IT Dashboard for two reasons, federal chief information office Vivek Kundra announced in a blog post.  “First, to take the platform to the next level, we want to tap into the collective talents and ingenuity of the American people, to enhance functionality, improve the code and address existing challenges such as those identified by David Powner and his team at GAO,” Kundra said. He added that CIOs from the Netherlands,…

Social Security Administration halts mailing of benefit statements because of budget crunch


The federal financial crunch has claimed another casualty: As of Tuesday, the Social Security Administration is no longer sending out annual earnings and benefits statements to millions of Americans, according to an internal notice. “Effective immediately, SSA is suspending the mailing of all Social Security statements because of the current budget situation,” the notice says. The online service for requesting a statement has also been disabled, the notice continues. Nor can the public use Form SSA-7004 to make a request. Indeed, type “statement” into the search engine on the Social Security Administration’s web site, and you’ll end up at a…

Postal Service looking to streamline post office closing process


Brace for a brouhaha: The U.S. Postal Service is seeking more freedom to close post offices with a package of sure-to-be-controversial proposals coming out in Thursday’s Federal Register. The half-dozen proposed rules changes will help the struggling mail carrier “responsibly address issues pertaining to declining mail volume, customer demand and revenue shortfalls,” USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “We look forward to the 30-day comment period,” she added. The proposals are already available online and postal officials have scheduled a Thursday media briefing to further explain the new approach. One can presume, however, that their overarching goal…

Health and Human Services to follow new nutritional guidelines


Employees at the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) may start noticing changes in their cafeteria menus. New nutrition guidelines at HHS will emphasize healthier foods and environmentally friendly procurement and disposal practices according to a blog post on written by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and GSA Administrator Martha Johnson March 24. The new guidelines are part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to encourage healthier eating and regular exercise and are part of an effort by GSA to extend sustainable food practices government wide. Some of the new dining guidelines include: Offering seasonal vegetables and fruits,…

ONC seeks feedback on health IT strategic plan


The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology wants to know what you think about its four-year strategic plan for health IT. The plan isn’t entirely new but rather updates an earlier version ONC released in June 2008. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act requires ONC to revise and republish that plan. ONC will accept public comments through April 22. “The adoption and meaningful use of EHRs is the unifying focal point of our strategy,” said National Coordinator for Health IT David Blumenthal. “However, meaningful use is necessary, but not sufficient, to harness the power of health…

NASA CTOs open to 'bring your own device'


There were mixed feelings last month when the federal chief information officer proposed giving federal workers a $2,000 subsidy to buy their own laptops and smartphones. Some balked at the idea and raised concerns that security would be at stake. But federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s proposal isn’t exactly far-fetched. When NASA asked several of its chief technology officers where NASA technology is headed over the next five years, mobile computing took center stage. James McClellan, CTO at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said “I don’t think it’s much of a leap to say that 5 years from now the average NASA employee will be using a mobile computing platform…

House committee takes aim at postal pay


The news keeps coming on that newly unveiled American Postal Workers Union contract. But the latest installment will likely not be welcome to members of any of the Postal Service’s four unions. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has just scheduled an April 5 hearing on postal pay and benefits and it looks like the tentative APWU deal will be the start of a longer conversation on USPS workforce costs. With those costs comprising about 80 percent of USPS operating expenses, “the union contract renewals are the best chance to find new savings,” committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said…

American Postal Workers Union sets contract vote


Members of the American Postal Workers Union will get about a month to decide the fate of a new contract, with the union dangling prizes to encourage locals to get out the vote, according to a news release. Ballots will be mailed out starting April 8 and are due back by May 10, with the actual count taking place the following day, May 11, the union release says. Depending on size and turnout, individual locals will be eligible for up to $4,000 in prizes to be used on members’ behalf. The union has also scheduled nine briefings around the country.…

White House asks feds for help to improve environmental reviews


The White House Council on Environmental Quality announced March 17 that federal agencies, along with members of the public,  can nominate projects that would encourage innovation and transparency within the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Federal workers can nominate any proposed project that would help create more efficient environmental reviews, according to CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley. Nominations are due June 15 and can be submitted to the CEQ website at

Former APWU President Burrus comes out against tentative postal contract


The current leadership of the American Postal Workers Union is rushing to crank up support for a tentative contract announced last week with the U.S. Postal Service. But one member of the nation’s largest postal union has already made up his mind. “I have been honored to have the opportunity to devote over 50 years of my professional life to improving conditions for postal employees and as a full dues-paying member and on behalf of future employees I would vote no,” former APWU President William Burrus wrote in an open letter posted on the web site, Burrus’ opposition centers around…

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