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Jack Moore is a web editor and general assignment reporter for Federal News Radio.
The Senate unanimously approved a bill Tuesday expanding protections for federal whistleblowers. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, authored and introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), the chairman of a Senate subcommittee on the federal workforce, updates a 1989 law protecting government whistleblowers.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has unveiled a series of new online tools designed to streamline and modernize the way local communities apply for HUD grants. The eCon Planning Suite is a set of data and mapping technologies released to the 1,200 local communities that vie for HUD block grants, as well as to the public at large.
A plan to avoid automatic cuts to discretionary federal spending, including the Defense Department's, advanced in the House, passing the budget committee and heading to the House floor for a vote later this week. Among the $300 billion in alternative cuts approved by the committee, in a 21-9 party-line vote, is a provision requiring federal employees to pay more for their retirement benefits.
The Thrift Savings Plan's Roth option rolls out today. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board has been preparing for the new program for two years now, but despite the big push today many federal employees will actually have to wait to enroll in the new program. One of the largest federal payroll processors needs more time to upgrade its systems in preparation for the Roth option. Find information about which agencies are affected, as well as the five things feds should know about the Roth TSP below.
A group of 26 Democratic senators wrote last week to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urging the Pentagon to lift an "arbitrary" cap on DoD's civilian workforce, saying contractors hadn't been similarly affected by budget constraints. But the Professional Services Council, an industry group which represents many defense contractors, rebuts the charge that contractors haven't also felt the effects of the current fiscal climate.
Current and former officials at the General Services Administration will face a gauntlet of congressional hearings this week, following reports of excessive spending on a 2010 regional training conference and other programs. In an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose, former Virginia Congressman and Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Tom Davis shared his insights and what to look for during the hearings.
Internal emails from the General Services Administration show high-level agency officials were aware of a spending problem months before the scandal burst into public view. And as early as last summer, officials disagreed over how to reprimand the employees responsible for excessive spending at a 2010 regional training conference.
In 2008, Congress mandated the Pentagon to keep an inventory of service contracts and review it annually to make sure government work wasn't being improperly outsourced. But the Government Accountability Office, in a recent report, found a lack of guidance from the top has led to challenges in implementing that requirement.
The Roth option for the Thrift Savings Plan, which will allow federal employees to contribute after-tax dollars toward their retirement-savings accounts, will launch May 7, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board announced today. The board, which first began planning the Roth TSP in June 2009 when it was authorized, made the announcement at its quarterly meeting of TSP coordinators.
Not all claims of agency wrongdoing wind up with the agency IG's office. Some employees turn to the Office of Special Counsel, the independent investigative agency that acts under the authority of the Whistleblower Protection Act. OSC's relatively-low profile has grown since Carolyn Lerner, the head of the office, joined the agency about nine months ago.
The Government Accountability Office issues hundreds of reports each year detailing billions of dollars in cost-savings. Its role is considered essential to the congressional oversight process. But last year, Congress cut the agency's budget.
When news broke of an internal investigation examining the General Services Administration's excessive spending on a 2010 regional training conference, some seized on it as the perfect example of wasteful government spending. But the way the news unfolded — broadcast far and wide via social media and 24-hour news — also provided a lesson in crisis communications, one expert says.
Video has surfaced from the lavish Las Vegas conference, which eventually led to the firing of two top officials and the resignation of GSA Administrator Martha Johnson amid an outcry over excessive spending. The video portrays an awards ceremony at the October 2010 Western Region Conference along with a music video created by a GSA employee that pokes fun at, among other things, GSA spending and inspector general investigations.
The head of the General Services Administration resigned from her post Monday and two other officials were fired amid an investigation into excessive spending at a 2010 training conference.
The House unanimously voted Tuesday to create a new process for disposing of the federal government's 14,000 excess properties, beginning with a pilot program to sell off more than a dozen of the most profitable facilities. Under the law, agencies would be able to keep a portion of the proceeds from the sale of real property. The bill would also create a comprehensive database compiling a list of all of the federal government's real property.
A group of lawmakers has proposed an update to the law governing federal employees' political activity that would exempt some state and local employees and allow for a range of penalties other than automatic suspension for minor violations.
The rollout of the Roth option for the Thrift Savings Plan, which would allow federal employees to invest already-taxed income, has long been discussed in the federal pay-and-benefits world. That launch moved another step closer, with the planned publication Wednesday of draft regulations in the Federal Register. And TSP participants will soon have more information about what the plan will look like.
Federal employees are paid 16 percent more in total compensation — a combination of pay and benefits — than their private-sector counterparts, according to a new Congressional Budget Office report. The pay and benefits gap was not evident across the board, but stratified by educational attainment.
Tom Trabucco, director of external affairs at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, joined In Depth with Francis Rose to discuss the "three-legged stool" of federal retirement, the ballpark-estimate calculator and how it works.
All health insurance options in federal health plans will soon allow members to download a digital version of their health records using a technology called Blue Button, the Office of Personnel Management announced. The adoption of the Blue Button technology, whose use was spearheaded by the Veterans Affairs Department, will make it easer to share digital records with family members and physicians.