Monday morning federal headlines – Aug. 13, 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.

  • Internal auditors at the Defense Information Systems Agency need more training. So much so, the Pentagon inspector general gave them a failing grade. The IG looked at several internal audits done by DISA staff. It found auditors weren’t complying with their own manual, and they weren’t following Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards. The IG recommended more education and more frequent reviews. DISA’s director, Army Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, has accepted the recommendations. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Education Department launched a $400 million grant program. It’s this year’s version of Race to the Top. School districts with large numbers of poor students are eligible for grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million. Congress appropriated $550 million for the program. Education will spend the rest on grants for early learning programs. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House is asking agencies to simplify the forms they put out for the public. Regulatory chief Cass Sunstein said agencies need to pre-test forms for things like permits and federal benefits to make sure they’re not confusing. Agencies can use focus groups and cognitive evaluations, among other things. Sunstein said the goal is to reduce complexity and burdens on the public, which is a requirement of the 1995 Paperwork Reduction Act. (White House)
  • The General Services Administration has put a contractor for a failing system on notice. GSA’s letter of concern to IBM was sparked by the poor performance of the System for Award Management, or SAM. GSA hired IBM to combine several procurement database systems into one. IBM has been working on the project since 2010 under an eight-year, $74 million contract. GSA turned on SAM two weeks ago, but it has yet to work properly. Sources told Federal News Radio, IBM was taking steps to address SAM’s problems. These included adding more servers and bringing in a new team of employees. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Agriculture Department is centralizing its human resources IT. The department’s chief human capital officer told Federal News Radio the project would consolidate more than a dozen systems. Right now, those systems don’t communicate well with each other. The goal is to standardize HR processes. USDA plans to launch the new system in fiscal 2013. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama signed a bill to reduce the number of jobs requiring Senate confirmation. The law spares 166 executive branch positions from the process. It also eliminates Senate approval for members of the Public Health Service and NOAA. Critics of the nominations process have said it was too cumbersome. To put it in perspective, President John F. Kennedy had just 286 Senate confirmed executive branch jobs. The Obama White House had more than 1,200. (The New York Times)
  • IBM is thinking about buying a network that supports BlackBerrys. Bloomberg reports the computer maker has made an informal approach about acquiring Research in Motion’s enterprise-services unit. The purchase would give IBM a fast and securer email system that large corporations prefer. RIM has been struggling to catch up with newer entrants into the smart phone market — like Apple and Google. (Bloomberg)