Tuesday morning federal headlines – Aug. 28, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The federal government operates 52 programs to help entrepreneurs. But the Government Accountability Office said they aren’t managed very well. A new 97-page report cites instances in which agencies agreed to coordinate their support programs but never followed through. In other cases, agencies didn’t track, or failed to meet, their performance goals. GAO also found that many of the programs overlapped. Auditors looked at programs in the Agriculture, Commerce and Housing and Urban Development departments and the Small Business Administration. Together they spend $2 billion a year to help entrepreneurs with loans, grants and training. (GAO)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department is looking for a contractor to help it sort out its conferences. Since January 2009, VA has held nearly 1,000 conferences attended by at least 50 employees. And it’s in hot water with Congress because of spending levels at larger events. So VA plans to hire an outsider to review its policies and procedures for conferences. The contractor will look at how VA plans its events and how it acquires services and supplies for them. VA wants to know whether it is following governmentwide and VA-specific guidelines. And it asks would-be contractors to look for weak spots in how it does conferences. (Federal News Radio)
  • Birds and planes are increasingly fighting over the same territory and all too often the Federal Aviation Administration is on the sidelines. A new inspector general report cites a five-fold increase in airport bird strikes over the last two decades. It says the agency needs to do a better job of making sure airports comply with safety rules, but its staff lacks expertise in preventing wildlife hazards. It also says FAA does not require airports to report bird strikes. FAA is changing its regulations and has agreed to new training measures and reporting requirements. (Transportation Department)
  • The drip, drip, drip inside the U.S. Capitol has become the latest symbol of lawmakers’ inability to agree on anything. But now there are signs of bipartisanship. Democrats want to fix the 1,300 cracks in the Capitol Dome. They say the decay is a national embarrassment and threatens to ruin historic frescos inside the building. The repairs would cost about $61 million now, but if Congress waits, the price tag will rise. GOP leaders now suggest they are willing to find a solution, despite a reluctance to spend the money. (Federal News Radio)
  • IBM will acquire a cloud provider of human resource services. It will spend $1.3 billion for Kenexa Corporation. That will put IBM in competition with companies such as SalesForce.com for hosted services. The Wall Street Journal reports Kenexa is growing fast but hasn’t achieved a profit in four years of operation. It has 9,000 customers, including federal agencies and the U.K. government. The acquisition marks another step in IBM’s path from a hardware and infrastructure software supplier to a cloud applications provider. Some analysts say the acquisition will help customers apply social media to HR functions. (Wall Street Journal)
  • After being at the heart of a spending scandal, the General Services Administration has become thrifty. GSA said it has saved $11 million since April. That’s when news of the lavish Las Vegas conference broke and new Administrator Dan Tangherlini came in. He ordered a top-to-bottom review of agency operations. Since then, GSA has cancelled 47 conferences. It has created a new office of administrative services to monitor conference and travel spending. Officials said the savings were just the beginning. (GSA)
  • The Postal Service is offering early retirement to 3,300 workers so it doesn’t have to hand out pink slips. The agency said it was trying to avoid reductions in force. This round of buyouts targets managers and administrative staff. They will have until the end of the year to leave. More than 60,000 postmasters and mail handlers received buyout offers earlier this year. The Postal Service said it was also making organizational changes to save money. It was consolidating processing centers and its computerized forwarding system. (Federal News Radio)
  • As Hurricane Isaac threatens the Southeast, FEMA is intent on showing it has learned its lessons from Katrina. Officials said they were talking early and often with state and tribal leaders in danger zones. President Barack Obama already has signed a pre-disaster emergency declaration. That paves the way for federal support if communities need it. FEMA has stationed teams at emergency operations centers in the region. It also has ramped up supplies of water, blankets and the like at depots in Jacksonville and Montgomery, Ala. A multi-agency team is overseeing the federal response from a coordination center in Washington, D.C. FEMA said Isaac was more robust than Katrina was when it hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. (FEMA)