Wednesday federal headlines – June 5, 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 Office of Personnel Management has unveiled proposed rules for retiring in phases. Eligible federal employees could stay on the job part time while getting half of their retirement benefits. They would have to mentor colleagues as part of the deal. The rules would apply to feds who have worked full time for the past three years and are eligible for retirement. But it’s up to the agency to offer the phased option. OPM says the policy can ease transitions. Congress mandated the option in a law passed last year. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House has passed the first of 12 spending bills for the 2014 budget that starts Oct. 1. Lawmakers started with an easy one, a bill to fund programs for veterans. It passed 421 to 4. The White House has threatened a veto because the spending levels in the bill could force deeper cuts in other programs. The Republican-controlled House debates homeland security spending today. The more controversial bills, such as those with cuts for food stamps, will come up later in the summer. (Federal News Radio)
  • General Services Administration managers are circumventing their staff and messing around with major technology contracts. The inspector general says unhappy contractors got Federal Acquisition Service managers to intervene in Multiple Award Schedule contracts. The result is higher costs and less favorable terms to the government. Auditors say the agency should impose a firewall between contractors and senior managers except in rare instances. It is recommending GSA cancel or re-do two existing contracts, one with Carahsoft and the other with Deloitte. Together they are worth more than half-a-billion dollars. (GSA)
  • The Office of Personnel Management will offer buyouts or early retirements to 300 employees. Federal Times reports, a few of them are people who process retirement claims, where OPM deals with a persistent backlog. Employees received the memo informing them of the buyouts at the end of May. Acting Director Elaine Kaplan says the buyouts will help the agency deal with budget constraints. Personalized buyout letters will be delivered to the affected individuals June 17. (Federal Times)
  • The Associated Press finds keeping second email accounts is normal among agency leaders, although it failed to determine the scale across government. White House spokesman Jay Carney says there’s nothing secret about it. He says all accounts are subject to congressional oversight and open-records requests. But Congressional oversight committees did not know of most of the nonpublic email addresses the AP indentified including the one for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The AP requested records of the secret email accounts. The Labor Department initially asked it to pay more than a million dollars for the records. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Internal Revenue Service didn’t break rules, but it still overspent on a 2010 conference. That’s one finding in a new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Auditors focused on a big conference in Anaheim for more than 2,600 employees. It cost $4.1 million. The agency spent about 250,000 on guest speakers, swag and videos. IRS got an allowable hotel room price. But because it used a party planning contractor it may have done better, auditors said. The IG found that IRS paid for the conference partly with money left over from a hiring program. (Federal News Radio)