Monthly Archives: December, 2011

U.S. Postal Service ranked tops (yes, you read that right)

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At the end of a dismal year for the U.S. Postal Service, let’s end on an upbeat note: For all its problems, the nation’s mail carrier is the best-performing among those of major industrialized countries. That’s the judgment of Oxford Strategic Consulting, a British firm that recently took a look at the operations of 19 national posts, including those of Great Britain, China, India and Japan. When it came to delivering letters and other mail, the U.S. Postal Service averaged almost 269,000 pieces per delivery employee last year, far ahead of runner-up Australia Post, where the average was about 167,000 pieces, the Oxford study found. The…

General Services Administration recovers Abraham Lincoln bust

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The General Services Administration has recovered a 1936 sculpture of Honest Abe’s head, according to a press release. Artist A. William Mues originally created the sculpture as part of the Works Progress Administration for the government during the Great Depression. But the sculpture turned up at a New Jersey estate auction in November and identified by a GSA inspector general agent. After reviewing documents from the National Archives and confirming its origins, the sculpture was returned to GSA. The sculpture is valued at $2,600.

Taps for the National Security Personnel System

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As of this Sunday, the National Security Personnel System is officially defunct. In a Federal Register notice published today, the Office of Personnel Management and the Defense Department report that they are repealing the regulations accompanying the controversial pay-for-performance system effective Jan. 1. The repeal is basically just housekeeping; the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act ended the legal authority for the NSPS and declared that any existing regs would be toast by the beginning of 2012. Should anyone need a refresher on what the very long-running flap was about, incidentally, this Federal Times article offers a good recap.

Washington Monument has cracks, could cost $15 million to repair, report says

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The Washington Monument, damaged in the August earthquake, is cracked in dozens of places, according to a National Park Service report released Thursday. Six marble panels near the pointed top of the monument — called the “pyramidion” — have severe cracking, and. water is leaking through to the observation areas, according to the report. The report — prepared by government contractors Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. and Tipping Mar — also documents other cracks throughout the structure. The Park Service will receive $7.5 million in funds to repair the monument under the fiscal 2012 spending bill approved last week. The agency…

Treasury headquarters attains LEED Gold certification.

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The Treasury Department announced today that their headquarters has attained LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Gold is the second-highest rating. The building was made more energy and water efficient, resulting in a 7 percent decrease in electricity use and a 53 percent decrease in steam use over 2008 levels. “The fact that the home of much our nation’s financial history has achieved this distinction for environmental leadership adds new meaning to the term ‘green’ building,” said Assistant Secretary for Management Dan Tangherlini. “We’re proud of the improvements we’ve made around the Treasury Building – both big…

Retirements, hardship withdrawls cut TSP contributions

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Here are highlights from Monday’s Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board meeting: -The number of participants with no contributions to their TSP accounts increased by about 3,000 last month, compared with a 25,000 increase on October. The number of active FERS employees contributing to the Thrift Savings Plan decreased by about 5,000 in November. -Renee Wilder, the board’s director of research and strategic planning said an increase in separations, financial hardship withdrawals and the fact that employees are hitting their contribution limits have contributed to a decrease in participation. Employees who take out a hardship withdrawal cannot contribute to their TSP accounts for 6 months. The…

Unions and Postal Service keep talking

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The U.S. Postal Service and two of its major unions have again agreed to extend contract talks—this time until Jan. 20. Under a previous extension, negotiations with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers had been set to end Friday, but all sides agreed to stay at the bargaining table for another month or so. “The extension will allow the parties to continue to work on the important economic, health care, workplace and other contractual issues being discussed,” the Postal Service said in a news release Saturday morning. “We are encouraged that progress is…

DoD CIO honors IT professionals

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Information technology played a vital role in the Defense Department’s immediate response to the Japanese tsunami this spring. DoD military services relied heavily on data, video and voice technology to quickly exchange information with the Japanese about available fuel, food, water and radiological activity at the disaster cite. Without the proper IT in place, including a functioning network, it would have been impossible for the commander to do his job, whether disaster relief or humanitarian efforts, said United States Navy Capt. Craig Goodman, who is stationed at Yokota Air Base in Japan. The technology provided a common operational picture of…

Postal Service proceeds with first-class mail service standard change

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Despite the five-month freeze on mail processing plant closings announced this week, the U.S. Postal Service is pursuing the change in first-class mail delivery standards tied to that proposed downsizing. That planned change would slacken the existing delivery benchmark–now one to three days–to two to three days.  As part of the  the same initiative, the Postal Service wants to close more than half of its 461 processing facilities, with the goal of running the remaining plants more efficiently under the new standard. In a Federal Register notice published today, the mail carrier acknowledges that eliminating the overnight delivery standard for…

Why the Postal Service's halt to plant and P.O. closings may not mean much

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So, how big a deal is the U.S. Postal Service’s freeze on closings of post offices and mail processing plants? Less than you might think, perhaps. No doubt, today’s abruptly announced moratorium was made under mounting political pressure from Capitol Hill Democrats. “Cave-in” was how Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Dennis Ross, R-Fla., described it in a news release. But the long-term consequences for the Postal Service’s downsizing plans won’t necessarily be that pronounced. Last week, for example, a USPS spokeswoman told Federal Times that processing plant closings would start in April at the earliest. The five-month freeze would push…

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