Monday morning federal headlines – July 30, 2012

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

  • It’s not so easy to invest with a clear conscious. That’s the finding of a Government Accountability Office report on the Thrift Savings Plan. GAO looked at how the TSP could add social responsible index funds to the array of options. The problem is that these types of investments, in which managers consider certain environmental or ethical criteria don’t do as well as the typical TSP option. Auditors say they risk lowering TSP returns and increasing volatility. GAO says savings-plan managers would have trouble finding screening criteria acceptable to Congress. It recommends that they add an option outside the TSP, so that only those investors who want it pay the additional costs. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lest he forget, Maine Gov. Paul LePage owes federal workers an apology. And Government Executive reports federal managers are waiting. The Professional Managers Association represents IRS managers. It says LePage still needs to say “I’m sorry” to IRS employees for comparing them to the Nazi secret police. LePage apologized to Jewish groups in Maine…but then he repeated his comparison. PMA Director Tom Burger says these types of statements embolden others to act inappropriately…and place the entire federal workforce in jeopardy. (Government Executive)
  • President Barack Obama’s new project to help black students excel is getting both cheers and jeers. A new office is supposed to help agencies work closely with communities on African-American education, he writes in an executive order. African-Americans do not have equal access to good teachers and principals, safe schools and tough college-prep classes. Educators discipline and send them to special-ed more often. The order creates a new interagency working group that involves the Departments of Justice, Labor, Health and Human Services, Defense and the National Science Foundation, as well as the Education Department. Government Executive reports the move has some critics accusing the president of focusing on one race at the exclusion of others. (Federal News Radio)
  • FEMA management is scratching its collective head, trying to find out why morale is so low among the rank and file. In the annual best places to work survey, FEMA comes in number 231, almost at the bottom. Now officials are delving into the survey data, trying to find out what’s going on. Carter Hewgley is FEMAStat director in the office of Policy and Program Analysis. He says that because FEMA shows up at disasters, its employees deserve to be upbeat and smiling about the agency they work for. Among the biggest complaints: Personnel decisions aren’t always made on merit. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal acquisition is choking on its own regulations, say several former procurement chiefs. Diedre Lee was administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the 1990s. She says too many multiple award contracts and too much oversight have made it hard for acquisition people to get anything done. Stan Soloway, former Pentagon procurement chief, says too many layers of review cause contracts to stray from what the government customers really need. At a conference, Lee said more contracts should be awarded after what she called a good, old fashioned full-and-open competition. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agencies’ concentrated efforts to hire and retain Hispanics are working…modestly. The Office of Personnel Management says Hispanics make up 8.1 percent of the federal workforce. That’s a 0.1 percent increase over a year earlier. President Barack Obama has directed agencies to improve diversity and inclusion. Hispanics remain the most under-represented segment of the workforce. Progress may be slow, but the numbers are encouraging. The percentage of Hispanic senior- executive-service members went from less than 3 percent in 2010 to more than 5 percent in fiscal 2011. (Translated into actual numbers, that means the government hired nine more Hispanic Senior Executive Service members than it did in 2010.) (Federal News Radio)
  • The Combined Federal Campaign should expand its donor base, update its technology and become more transparent about its own costs and benefits. That’s what a commission convened to look into the CFC has recommended. The Commission was led by former Northern Virginia Congressman Tom Davis and former Maryland Congresswoman Beverly Byron. Commissioners made 24 recommendations, including filling the long-vacant position of chief compliance officer. Office of Personnel Management
  • A high-ranking General Services Administration official is taking a 60-day medical leave of absence. Steve Kempf, the commissioner of the GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, begins his leave today. Mary Davie, the assistant commissioner, will act in place of Kempf. A GSA source says Kempf’s leave is unrelated to recent revelations about an expensive recognition ceremony for FAS employees. Florida Republican Congressman John Mica revealed GSA had spent more than a quarter million dollars on the event. It took place in November 2010, just a few months after Kempf became commissioner. He joined the agency as an intern in 1992. (Federal News Radio)