Monthly Archives: October, 2011

Postal Service loses bid for slowdown on rate case appeal

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In the context of the U.S. Postal Service’s zillion or so other problems, this one doesn’t loom very large, but the mail carrying agency has struck out in its bid for a stay in proceedings on the exigent rate case that began last year. In an order released today, the Postal Regulatory Commission said the case is “now ready to proceed,” and rejected the Postal Service’s request for the stay until Dec. 15. This case dates back to July 2010, when the Postal Service sought approval for a package of rate increases that would have boosted the price of a first-class…

Subpoenas spark change in agencies' small business leadership

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A House committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday has been cancelled after agencies that were subpoenaed to testify about their refusal to put senior leadership in charge of their small business contracting activities decided to reorganize instead. On Oct. 20, House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves issued subpoenas to the Treasury, State, Justice and Agriculture departments, requiring their deputy secretaries attend a Nov. 1 hearing to discuss their noncompliance with the federal Small Business Act.  The four agencies had previously refused to change the organizational structure of their Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), which, according to the federal Small Business Act, is supposed…

Obama administration to boost tech transfers

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The Obama administration plans to boost innovation by increasing the number and pace of federal technology transfers over a five year period. In an Oct. 28 memo to agency and department heads, President Obama set an April deadline for agencies and federal labs to develop performance goals for increasing technology transfers to private sector and research organizations and improving “public availability of federally owned inventions.” These plans, which will cover 2013 to 2017, will be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review.  In fiscal 2009, federal labs at 11 agencies — including Veterans Affairs and Agriculture departments — disclosed 4,422 new inventions to…

A footnote to the FAA furloughs

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One of the oddities of this summer’s partial Federal Aviation Administration shutdown was that the agency would never say exactly how many employees were furloughed as a result. “Nearly 4,000” was the stock phrase used by FAA officials, who refused to provide a more precise figure. Not clear why they were so coy (this is supposed to be the most transparent administration in American history, after all), but FedLine’s curiosity was piqued, a Freedom of Information Act request was filed and the answer came back late last month: 3,750. The estimated cost in lost payroll for the two-week furlough (and…

Work of inspectors general lauded

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Who says that government work is dull? The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency recently held its 14th annual awards ceremony and the range of honorees gives some idea of the breadth of the assignments carried out by departmental and special watchdogs. The winner of the Alexander Hamilton Award, for example, was the Bridge Safety Improvement Team at the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General, which was saluted for “significant contributions” to bridge safety through improvements to federal and state inspections and other oversight activities.  The Sentner Award for Dedication and Courage went to a group at…

Security organization honors feds and contractors

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Redacting sensitive information in agency documents used to be a 15-step process at the Transportation Security Administration. That was until a poorly redacted document was posted online in 2009. The incident prompted Emma Garrison-Alexander, TSA’s assistant administrator for information technology, to create standard document redaction tools and procedures agencywide. The feature is now an automated tool also available to private users of Adobe Acrobat Professional software. “We have to ensure that we’re securing data and networks,” Garrison-Alexander said after being honored at ISC2’s Government Information Security Leadership Awards. Garrison-Alexander was among several federal employees and contractors honored last week. Read more about…

GAO: Federal IT budget far more than $79 billion

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A review of federal information technology investments found that agencies spend far more than the $79 billion reported on the government’s web-based IT tracking system, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. The IT Dashboard only provides investment data for 26 agencies, the report noted. The website does not include spending data for 61 other agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency and legislative and judicial branch agencies. OMB encourages small agencies to use the IT Dashboard, but they choose not to, according to the GAO report released Wednesday. While administration officials often quote…

TSA disciplines screener who instructed passenger to "Get her freak on"

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The Transportation Security Administration has initiated disciplinary action against an employee who told a female passenger to “Get her freak on” in a handwritten note placed inside her bag. The passenger tweeted a picture of the note – which was written on a “Notice of Inspection” form that TSA places inside checked bags that are going to be searched. The employee has been removed from screening duty and is awaiting further disciplinary action. According to the TSA blog: “The handwritten note was highly inappropriate and unprofessional, and TSA has zero tolerance for this type of behavior. Agency officials have also…

Layoffs may hit Toon Town: Senators go after DHS mascots

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You know things are getting bad when even fictional jobs are no longer safe. Congress was given until Oct. 14 to make recommendations to the Super Committee tasked with finding at least 1.2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years. What Congress sent their way was a veritable cornucopia of suggestions ranging from cuts to the federal workforce to opening up federal land to oil drilling. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia offered a wide array of possible spending cuts – including…

Report: Postal Service mail decline accelerating

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The U.S. Postal Service has seen the future and it looks even worse than expected just 17 months ago. In a USPS-commissioned report released in March 2010, Boston Consulting Group predicted that total mail volume would slide from 177 billion pieces in 2009 to 150 billion pieces in 2020. But that mid-range forecast may have been overly rosy, according to updated numbers contained in a Government Accountability Office overview this week. The Postal Service now expects mail volume to drop to 127 billion pieces by 2020, the overview says. Profitable first-class mail use will fall by half and standard mail…

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