Monthly Archives: July, 2011

Government satellite helps rescue hikers after bear attack

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On July 23, a group of students were hiking 93 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska, when they were attacked by a Grizzly bear. One of the students activated an emergency personal locator beacon, which alerted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-11 satellite, which worked with a European satellite to pinpoint their location. The coordinates were relayed to the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, which alerted Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Air National Guard, who rescued the group. Four had been injured, with two requiring hospitalization. A brief explanation of how the system works (from NOAA): When a NOAA satellite…

One state spared from possible post office closings

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Here’s a fun fact to know and share about the post office downsizing process unveiled today: From Alaska to Rhode Island, every state (and the District of Columbia) has post offices under review for closing. Except one: Delaware, which is also the home state of one of the U.S. Postal Service’s closest allies on Capitol Hill: Democratic Sen. Tom Carper. Carper not only chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees the troubled mail carrier, he is also lead sponsor of the Postal Operations Sustainment and Transformation (POST) Act, which is the Postal Service’s preferred bill for addressing its many problems, mainly…

Stay tuned: Post office closing study list out today

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Lest anyone’s forgotten, today’s the day that the U.S. Postal Service kicks off its biggest campaign to close post offices since . . . the last one, which quickly flamed out two years ago. At a 10 a.m. news conference, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is expected to release a list of more than 3,600 post offices that could be shuttered after a newly created review process. (That list is supposed to be up on the Postal Service’s web site at 10:30 a.m.) On Wednesday, the agency will ask the Postal Regulatory Commission to formally weigh in on its plans, according…

Social Security Administration trimming public office hours

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Another cost-cutting move is in the works at the Social Security Administration, where almost 1,300 field offices will soon begin closing to the public one half hour earlier each business day. The change, which takes effect Aug. 15, means that an office that has been open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will close to the public at 3:30, according to a news release. Although Social Security employees will keep working their normal schedules, the “shorter public window” will help the agency avoid paying overtime, SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue said in the release. Because Congress provided the…

Postal clerks bear the brunt of USPS downsizing

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It’s no secret that there are a lot fewer postal workers than there used to be; the size of the agency’s total career workforce plunged 26 percent between 2000 and 2010, from about 787,500 to 583,900. But which crafts took the biggest hit? The agency’s inspector general put together some figures recently and found that a steep drop in the number of clerks accounted for almost two-thirds of that shrinkage. From 2000 to 2010, the ranks of clerks—a category that also includes nurses and motor vehicle operators–nosedived from 291,494 to 164,581. By itself, that’s a 44 percent tumble. Do a…

Post office closing candidate list coming Tuesday

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Newsflash: On Tuesday, U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe will release a list of post offices to be studied for closing, as well as announce  “a new concept” for possibly replacing P.O.’s that close, according to a news release. The morning news conference will come less than two weeks after the U.S. Postal Service published the final version of regulations aimed at making it easier to shutter some of its 32,000 post offices. Despite some changes to the draft released in March, the final version preserved a key element allowing the Postal Service to target facilities that suffer from “insufficient customer…

SAIC claims final spot on $12 billion VA contract

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Science Applications International Corp. was awarded the last spot on a $12 billion information technology contract by the Veterans Affairs Department, the agency said Tuesday. VA awarded the contract on July 1 to 14 contractors — including Booz Allen Hamilton, Harris Corp. and Systems Research and Applications Corp. — out of more than 90 bidders to provide the department with systems and software engineering, cybersecurity, training and facilities support. The department awarded the last spot on its Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology contract to SAIC on Monday. The 15th contract was on hold pending resolution of an earlier protest with the…

HUD HQ has roof problems

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About 300 employees at the Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters in Washington, D.C. have been moved out of the 10th floor because of work being done to reinforce a sagging roof. The agency is retrofitting support joists with extra support brackets. The work will take over a month to complete. HUD Secretary Sean Donovan’s office has been relocated from the 10th floor and other employees have either been relocated or are teleworking, according to a spokesman.

SSA CIO announces resignation

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Frank Baitman, chief information officer at the Social Security Office will resign Aug. 19, the agency confirmed Monday.   SSA would not say why Baitman is leaving, but his resignation comes three weeks after SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue announced several organizational changes, including moving the Offices of Innovation and Investment Management from the CIO office to the Office of Systems. Astrue said the changes will maximize efficiency “during these lean budget times.”   Kelly Croft, Deputy Commissioner for Systems, will take on the CIO duties, and workers from the CIO office and the Office of Information Security will move to the…

Social Security benefit statements to be available again . . . eventually

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Remember those annual earnings and benefits statements that fell victim to Social Security Administration cost-cutting earlier this year? Turns out that agency plans to make the legally required statements available via the Internet–it just doesn’t know when, according to the Government Accountability Office. Under the Social Security Administration’s game plan, all eligible participants could access their records online, while people aged 60 and older who have not started claiming benefits would also get the mailed statements, GAO Managing Director Babara Bovbjerg told a House Ways and Means subcommittee in prepared testimony this month. At best, SSA officials expect that to…

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