Monday federal headlines – May 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.

  • Two new reports add detail to a picture of mismanagement at the General Services Administration. Both concern freely flowing executive bonuses between 2009 and 2011. Inspector General Brian Miller says that in those two years, GSA officials violated legal requirements for executive performance evaluation. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) report covers bonuses governmentwide. But it singles out GSA, which in 2011 awarded more executive bonuses per capita than any agency. Bonuses to GSA senior execs that year reached $1.1 million. GSA leadership changed with the resignation of Administrator Martha Johnson in 2012. She left amid revelations of excessive conference spending. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House says it will cut timelines in half for major infrastructure projects. President Barack Obama has issued a memo directing agencies to update their permit processes. An interagency steering committee now has 60 days to identify the speedbumps in the process. They will have another 60 days to come up with a plan that includes revising regulations, identifying the characteristics of good infrastructure projects and digitizing steps still done on paper. (White House)
  • Despite budget problems, the Office of Personnel Management says the presidential rank awards will go on. It is giving agency leaders two weeks to nominate federal senior executives for the career achievement honors. But OPM says they should take more care and use more rigor in evaluating candidates because of the fiscal conditions. It also says agencies should check the background of nominees and the programs they supervise. The Veterans Affairs Department got into trouble with Congress for awarding the honor to the employee who oversees a hospital where Legionnaires’ disease killed five patients. (CHCOC)
  • The government failed to put a small, but significant number of known terrorists on watch lists. The Justice Department’s inspector general says the department failed to share information about terrorism suspects in the witness security program with the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. It keeps the no-fly list. As a result, some of the people traveled on commercial flights. The Justice Department says it has fixed the problem with a more restrictive travel policy. It says in the past six years, the government has given just two former or suspected terrorists new identities and relocation help. Some in Congress say the audit shows information sharing is still a problem, even more than a decade after Sept.11, 2001. (Justice Department)
  • The IRS official now running its Affordable Care Act unit headed up the tax-exempt group at the center of a major scandal. ABC News reports, some lawmakers have called for the resignation of Sarah Hall Ingram. She ran the tax exempt group from 2009 to 2012. That’s when the IRS targeted tax exemption applications from conservative groups for special scrutiny. Ingram’s successor, Joseph Grant, is resigning after only two weeks on the job. Top Treasury officials found out about the inspector general probe of the IRS in June 2012. And a source tells the Wall Street Journal, the White House legal office was informed weeks ago. (ABC News)
  • Two unions representing federal immigration officers are joining forces to oppose the immigration reform bill making its way through the Senate. The New York Times reports, deportation officers are represented by the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council. Its leader, Chris Crane, has been a critic of the bill. The National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, headed by Kenneth Palinkas, has also joined the battle. He says his members have been pressured to rubber stamp citizenship applications. If the bill becomes law, members of the two unions would have to carry it out. (The New York Times)
  • Federal credit unions are offering special programs for federal employees facing furloughs. The Treasury Department’s credit union, for one is offering special loans, loan extensions, line of credits and loan modification and refinancing. Meanwhile, a group offering emergency loans to furloughed feds says there hasn’t been much demand. The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund says it granted one loan to an FAA employee furloughed before Congress passed a measure letting that agency reprogram money. FEEA says it gets requests daily but applications are slow. Feds must have short paychecks to qualify. That hasn’t happened yet at most agencies. (NAFCU)