Monday morning federal headlines – Oct. 17

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Agile development sounds like something you do in a gym — but it’s a way of developing software. A growing number of federal agencies are starting to use agile development, which is different from the way they’ve been building systems. Proponents say agile development offers a better chance projects will be done on time and within budget. Rob White, a supervising engineer for the FBI, said the FBI is trying out agile to build its Sentinel case management system. (Federal News Radio)
  • The new federal jobs web site nearly ground to a halt from heavy traffic. The Office of Personnel Management launched the new version of USA Jobs with much fanfare last week, and some 2.5 million visitors a day have logged in. But many of them complain the site is slow and clunky. OPM posted an apology on the home page. A spokeswoman told Federal News Radio a team is working around the clock to tune the system. Adding to the confusion is that the new site requires new passwords, even for people with accounts at the old USA Jobs site. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lawmakers are sending their recommendations to the select committee on debt reduction. One letter calls for pay freezes through 2015, a 10 percent cut to the workforce and cuts to federal retirement benefits. Those come from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California. He said the changes would save $375 billion dollars over a decade. They include changing the pension formula from a high-three to a high-five calculation, increasing FERS contributions and eliminating FERS for new hires. Some Democratic recommendations include closing tax loop holes, imposing new fees on banks, even regulating and taxing online gambling. (Federal News Radio)
  • A bill in Congress would force the Energy Department and the Federal Trade Commission to pack up and move. That bill has cleared the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Federal Times reports the Civilian Property Realignment Act would force the FTC out of its headquarters building and into new digs in Southwest D.C. It’s historic building would then go to the National Gallery of Art. Energy would move from its headquarters in Southwest to an undetermined location. All of the moves would be handled by the General Services Administration. The bill requires the moves to be completed by the end of calendar 2012. (Federal Times)
  • The Post Service’s largest union says it will hire its own financial consultants to study USPS’ future. The Postal Service lost $8 billion dollars in 2010. It’s expected to post even worse numbers when it releases the fiscal 2011 summary next month. Now, the National Association of Letter Carriers plans to retain the investment bank Lazard Group and former White House adviser Ron Bloom as consultants. The union president, Fredric Rolando, said he’s committed to keeping six-day-a-week letter carrier service. Some in Congress have called for an end to Saturday delivery as a way to save money. (Federal News Radio)
  • Stigma is still a problem for veterans who need access to mental health care, The Government Accountability Office found in a recent report. That report found more than two million veterans have gotten mental health care from the VA in the past five years. But GAO auditors found that veterans who don’t take advantage of available mental health care often don’t realize its available, think the VA is primarily for older veterans or don’t want to deal with the stigma of having received mental health care. GAO said that the VA is integrating mental health care into primary care, which is helping to alleviate the stigma. It is also trying to educate veterans and their families about the services that are available for all veterans. (GAO)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is lending a hand to new Senior Executive Service members. It’s launching a new one-year transition program designed to help SES-ers move more smoothly into their federal leadership roles. The result, OPM said will be a more positive experience that boosts retention and builds long-term organizational success. The framework is currently in a pilot phase. (OPM)
  • You’ve just gotten accustomed to “pat downs” when you fly. Now, get ready for “chat downs,” USA Today reports. The Transportation Security Administration is prepared to ask you a flurry of questions about where you’re going, where you’re staying, why you’re traveling and how long you’ll be gone. For now, it is only an experiment. But if the test at Boston Logan works, you can expect face-to-face questioning by a TSA officer before you even get to the full-body scan and pat down, USA Today reports. You can refuse to answer the questions and still make your flight, however your carry-on will be searched. (USA Today)