Friday morning federal headlines – Dec. 14, 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.

  • The food in your agency cafeteria may be worth less than you think. Agencies could be overpaying food service contractors by millions of dollars, the leader of a Senate oversight panel said. Contractors save money when they buy food in bulk and they can get big rebates or discounts. But Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said they aren’t passing those savings on to their agency clients. She wants the Office of Management and Budget to create guidelines and consider leveraging the government’s buying power through strategic sourcing of these contracts. (Office of Sen. Claire McCaskill)
  • The General Services Administration has created a new vehicle for agencies to buy so-called commodity IT products. It awarded blanket purchase agreements to 43 small and disadvantaged businesses. Products under the BPA include PCs, tablets, smart phones, video teleconferencing gear and data center equipment all at deeply discounted prices compared to the Multiple Award Schedule contracts. The latest deal is part of GSA’s National Information Technology Commodity Program. (Federal News Radio)
  • New weather-emergency rules have earned the Office of Personnel Management an award from local leaders. OPM Director John Berry accepted it yesterday from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. OPM increased communication with the council following the January 2011 snowstorm that caught officials off guard, caused hours of gridlock and major area power outages. OPM began meeting with local leaders, emergency and transportation managers and others. It has also used the council’s recommendations to rewrite federal employee release policies. (Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments)
  • Federal judges are suing the government for millions of dollars in back pay. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ordered Congress to pay six judges the pay raises they were promised years ago but were never given. Now the Federal Judges Association is pushing for class-action status for more than 1,000 federal judges. The controversy stems from a 23-year-old law that gave judges automatic cost-of-living increases. The plaintiffs said that means federal judges deserve the same COLAs awarded to other feds but Congress has denied them those increases six times since passing the law. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Obama administration is exposing the results of its four-year push to create a data-driven government. The White House has updated its portal. It shows the progress, or lack of progress, dozens agencies have made. It’s the third and most comprehensive version of the website. Shelley Metzenbaum is in charge of performance improvement at the Office of Management and Budget. She said the new site shows more information than ever about what agencies are trying to accomplish. (Federal News Radio)
  • Sequestration is just 18 days away but plenty of federal contractors do not have a game plan. Polling firm Market Connections surveyed more than 100 contractors last month. Nearly half, 46 percent, said they will not make a move until political leaders resolve the budget issue. Just over a quarter of the respondents said they were trimming their costs. One-sixth are looking for new opportunities elsewhere. They are turning to the health care and energy sectors, state and local government and overseas markets. They see room to grow in healthcare IT, workforce mobility and cloud computing. (
  • The House has passed a bill giving federal agencies new tools to combat improper payments and fraud. The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act, H.R. 4053, was first sponsored by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) It will let agencies share contractor information and require the White House to create a governmentwide do-not-pay list. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has a companion bill in the Senate. The House also passed the GAO Mandates Revision Act. It will let the Government Accountability Report consolidate or get rid of redundant or useless yearly audits. The bill has already passed the Senate, so now it heads to the President. (Sen. Tom Carper)
  • Republican lawmakers are demanding the whys and hows about the Environmental Protection Agency’s email accounts. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, particularly wants to question EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. He asked her in a letter to respond to published reports that she uses two email accounts. One is apparently for internal use only, and carries the user name Richard Windsor. Upton and other committee members want to know who Jackson communicates with on which accounts. They worry some of her official email is not captured properly as agency records. Upton has requested answers before Christmas. (The Washington Times)