Monthly Archives: September, 2013

The Postal Service (yawn) defaults again

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If a smidgen of suspense lingered earlier today about whether much of the government would shut down tomorrow, there was never the slightest doubt that the U.S. Postal Service would skip a legally required retiree health care payment for the third straight year. Pretty much ever since the Postal Service defaulted on the 2012 payment, USPS leaders have been warning they would miss the $5.6 billion obligation due by midnight tonight; in another 15 minutes or so, the agency will officially be in default. Unlike past years, however, when an anxious Congress either cut the amount of the annual installment or pushed back the deadline, this year’s…

NIST cancels conference as shutdown looms

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At least one federal conference is being postponed this week because of a potential government shutdown. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is postponing its Cloud Computing and Mobility Forum this week “because we could not guarantee NIST’s facility would be open on the first day of the meeting, Oct. 1,” according to an agency spokeswoman. “The meeting has not been rescheduled.” More than 500 people had registered for the conference, including about 130 federal employees. Many federal employees would be forced to stay home without pay if Congress doesn’t strike a budget deal by midnight. Just at DoD, some 400,000 employees…

First-class stamp price would rise to 49 cents under USPS proposal

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The sound you heard from the U.S. Postal Service this morning was the other shoe dropping in the wake of its its failed attempt to end Saturday mail delivery earlier this year. The “exigent” rate increase proposed today would raise about $2 billion per year, or roughly the same amount that cutting Saturday delivery was supposed to save. Much of the added revenue would come from a hike in the price of a first-class stamp from 46 cents to 49 cents. The proposal would also increase the charge for additional letter ounces from 20 cents to 21 cents, raise postcard…

What's your take on the FEHBP 2014 health plan rates?

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Hi everyone: As most Federal Times readers probably know, the Office of Personnel Management  yesterday announced 2014 rates for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, both for health plans as well as dental and vision. In comparison with trends from just a couple of years ago, next year’s increases are relatively modest, but–as federal employees unions were quick to point out–they are still increases as a time when many feds have lost income because of furloughs and everyone remains under the pay freeze now in place for almost three years. We want to get your feedback. Are the increases for…

USPS consultant to divine future of stamps under $500K+ contract

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What might the future hold for the humble postal stamp? The financially challenged U.S. Postal Service is paying a New York consulting firm named Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve more than a half-million dollars to find out. “Who will be buying stamps in 2019, 2024 and 2034? What will they be used for?,” reads the company’s description of the $566,000 task order awarded last month. “How can we embed innovation and new thinking into stamps, to engage America’s coming generations and the [USPS’s] existing and new customers?” After starting the job early last month, BrainReserve–whose website touts its consulting specialty as “applied futurism”–is…

OPM, background contractor on vetting of Navy Yard shooter

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Before he shot and killed 12 people in the Navy Yard rampage, Aaron Alexis had a string of arrests spanning years. That’s led many to wonder how he could’ve received and retained the security clearance that enabled him to enter the secure building in the first place. On Thursday, the company that performed the background check on Alexis in 2007 and the agency that oversaw the work issued separate statements in response to questions about the shooting. Here they are in their entirety: “The security clearance process begins when an agency identifies a person who will require eligibility for access…

How would your agency handle a shutdown?

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The odds of a partial government shutdown starting Oct. 1 spiked with House Republicans’ decision today to push a 2014 continuing resolution that would also cut off funding for “Obamacare” implementation. What would your agency do? A starting point can be found at the Office of Management and Budget’s website. Back in 2011, (i.e., several crises ago), OMB collected links to the contingency plans for dozens of agencies on a single page and–perhaps presciently–never took them down. Here’s the link:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/contingency-plans. In a memo today, OMB Director Sylvia Burwell told agencies to update those plans, which determine–among many other issues–which…

The visitor control center at Navy's Building 197

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 Access into the Washington Navy Yard’s Building 197, where a shooting rampage in Washington left at least a dozen people dead Monday, includes a security clearance check and vetting by contract-hired “visitor control technicians,” contract records show. Authorities have identified Aaron Alexis, 34, a Navy veteran, as the dead gunman. While it’s unclear how Alexis got into the building Monday morning, the Associated Press reported that he may have used someone’s identification. In April, the Navy hired Kansas-based contractor Transtecs Corp. for “visitor control office support services” at the Washington Navy Yard, according to the government’s online procurement database. While…

Postal Service: Almost 16K EAS employees eligible for early-out

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Some 15,600 U.S. Postal Service managers. supervisors and postmasters are getting notice this week that they qualify for the mail carrier’s latest early retirement  offer. The offer applies to eligible field employees covered by the Executive and Administrative Schedule, USPS spokeswoman Patricia Licata said in reply to emailed questions from Federal Times. That figure (15,580, to be exact) represents about one-third of the 42,239 field EAS employees on the rolls as of last week. For the Postal Service as a whole, the ranks of the EAS workforce numbered 50,346, excluding the USPS inspector general’s office and the Postal Inspection Service.…

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