Wednesday morning federal headlines – Feb. 20, 2013

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 Department of Veterans Affairs is promising swift action in Baltimore. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki says the department will put two “help teams” on board to help the regional office pick up the pace. He’s also bringing in high-level consultants and launching top-to-bottom training. All this comes after Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) made a fuss over the office’s backlog. It’s the worst in the nation, with four out of five disability claims taking longer than four months. What’s more, the lawmakers say, the office makes mistakes on those applications about a quarter of the time. (Sen. Barbara Mikulskli)
  • GSA’s acting administrator, Dan Tangherlini, announced a series of consolidation steps he said would make the agency more efficient. He told employees about them in a blog post. The moves are part of a 10-month effort Tangherlini called a top-to-bottom review. He told GSA employees, the CIO will get authority for all IT budgets and personnel. All HR functions will come under the chief people officer. And all office functions, such as correspondence and records management, will come under an Office of Administrative Services. Tangherlini has already put every bureau finance office under the authority of the chief financial officer. (GSA)
  • The Postal Service’s latest fix for its money problems — launching a clothing line. It has signed an agreement with the Cleveland- based apparel company Wahconah. The new line will be called “Rain, Heat and Snow.” The Postal Service said it will also feature wearable electronics. Officials said it will put the Postal Service on the cutting edge of functional fashion. Men’s wear comes out first, but a women’s line will follow. (USPS)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a new iPad app that lets anyone play sickness sleuth. The free app is called Solve the Outbreak. It leads users through fictional disease scenarios. Users find clues and see how decisions play out. It asks questions such as, did you quarantine the village or talk to people who are sick? CDC says users play the role of an epidemic intelligence service agent. (Federal News Radio)
  • How much should agencies reveal on Facebook and Twitter? The General Services Administration says simply counting the number of Facebook friends or tweets you send isn’t enough. It has new baseline social media metrics for agencies. It suggests tracking the rate of growth among target communities, followers’ loyalty and whether people are saying good things about you on social media. Also, it says agencies should monitor how promptly they’re responding to customers through social media. (Federal News Radio)
  • The exodus of technology leadership from Veterans Affairs continued with the departure of Chief Technology Officer Peter Levin. He announced his resignation yesterday without giving a date. CIO Roger Baker already announced plans to leave, and chief information security officer Jerry Davis left for NASA. Levin joined VA in 2009. He’s helped with some of VA’s biggest technology initiatives. He led the effort to create the so-called Blue Button technology so veterans can see and download their own medical histories. Levin also helped VA improve its claims processing system so the agency could start reducing its backlog. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama warned of dire consequences should sequestration take place a week from Friday. Unless Congress acts otherwise, civilian and Defense agencies would have to cut $85 billion from 2013 spending. Obama said the sequester would cause the furloughs of essential public employees and job losses in the private sector. He blamed Republicans for opposing another round of tax hikes in any deal to avoid sequestration. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says they already agreed to a tax hike this year. (Federal News Radio)