Thursday federal headlines – September 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 Postal Service is getting ready to issue a major package of early retirement offers to its managers and postmasters across the country. That’s according to one of USPS’ unions. In a message to members, the National Association of Postal Supervisors says the early-outs will be offered to all members of the Postal Career Executive Service and the Executive Administrative Schedule. The union says it expects the Postal Service to start notifying eligible employees by Sept. 16. (National Association of Postal Supervisors)
  • The Office of Federal Procurement Policy sets higher expectations of federal acquisition professionals to track how they meet their training requirements. OFPP Administrator Joe Jordan said in a new memo issued Sept. 3 to agency chief acquisition officers and senior procurement executives that civilian agency contracting officers, contracting officer representatives and program and project managers must use the Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application System (FAITAS) as a central repository of all certification and training information. Jordan said the Federal Acquisition Institute will lead this effort, which will help “reduce duplication of workforce management information systems, and leverage scare training resources across agencies.” The memo sets a series of deadlines for agencies, including requiring each CFO Act agency to input workforce data into FAITAS by Jan. 1. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is making another run at new rules that would clarify how federal employees earn and use time off for religous observances. The new proposed rules, just published in the federal register, are a revamp of a 2005 proposal that never went into effect. OPM says it still believes agencies need clearer guidance on how feds can qualify to take time off for religious purposes, and how they can earn compensatory hours by working overtime after the fact. (Office of Personnel Management)
  • Federal spending on services contracts is continuing a slow decline after a decade of agressive growth that peaked in 2010. That’s according to an annual deep-dive into contract data by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The think tank projects a further dropoff once 2013 numbers are in and sequestration is taken into account. Overall, dollars spent on services fell 7 percent from $332 billion to $308 billion between 2011 and 2012. (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
  • The Department of Health and Human Services needs help understanding all the data its collecting from social media tool Yammer. HHS is turning to another buzz industry, Big Data Analytics, for help. HHS issued a sole source justification notice on recently, saying it will hire GoodData to provide cloud-based analytical software. Yammer is a private social network that lets companies or organizations share information to more people at once. GoodData’s contract is for three months. There was no dollar figure announced. HHS will use the analytical software to look at historical trending, to do data discovery and customization and to provide notifications to managers about issues or subject areas. (
  • The White House is gathering input on advancing the national open data plan. In a blog posted Tuesday, Nick Sinai, the deputy chief technology officer in the White House, is asking for input on what to include in the National Action Plan for Open Government 2.0. Sinai writes the White House wants feedback on three broad questions starting with how best to encourage and enable public participation in government and increase public integrity. The Obama administration released the first national open government plan in September 2011. The White House says it completed 24 of 26 goals, including launching the We the People petition platform. We the People has had more than 10 million users and became the fodder of many a late night talk show when a petition to create a Death Star by 2016 received more than 34,000 signatures. (White House)
  • Thousands more Energy Department employees are at risk of identity theft after a cyber breach of an agency system. Energy first reported 14,000 current and former employees had their names, social security numbers, dates of birth and other personal information stolen. DoE now confirms that number rose to 53,000 current and former employees who are at risk. An email from DoE deputy Chief of Staff Jonathan Levy says the agency is notifying current and former employees of the breach. Energy will offer one year of free credit monitoring services from Experian to those current and former employees. Levy says Energy takes this incident very seriously and is implementing improvements to prevent future incidents. The department sincerely regrets this incident and the inconvenience it has caused the affected individuals. (Department of Energy)
  • The Commerce Department approves new standards for your identity badges handing around your neck or on your belt loop. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker signs off on Federal Information Processing Standard 201-2. It’s also known as Personal Identity Verification of Federal Employees and Contractors under Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12, or HSPD-12. The National Institute of Standards and Technology issued the draft update to HSPD-12 standards in July 2012. The draft received comments from 36 entities. Among the changes in FIPS 201-2 is the ability to use a derived credential for mobile devices. NIST also lets agencies implement virtual contact interface for the secure messaging capability of the card. NIST said the use of VCI would let user access all the functionality of the PIV card. (Commerce Department)
  • Last month, the Defense Department announced it was reducing the number of mandatory 2013 furlough days for civilian employees from 11 to six. But by that time, plenty of workers had already taken more than six furlough days. At least in the case of the Army, there’s a plan to pay those employees back. But there’s a major caveat — according to a memo obtained by the Washington Post, they’ll have to trade earned vacation time. Union reps aren’t happy. They say it’s well within DoD’s authority to grant time not chargeable to leave, but the department has chosen not to do so. (Washington Post)
  • James Comey took over as the head of the FBI yesterday. Attorney General Eric Holder swore Comey in to become the seventh FBI director in the bureau’s modern history. Comey served from 2003 to 2005 as the deputy attorney general of the Justice Department under President George W. Bush and was a federal prosecutor for 15 years. He succeeds Robert Mueller, who served as FBI director for 12 years. Mueller has been widely praised for transforming the FBI into a national security organization focused on threats and using intelligence. The Senate confirmed Comey on July 30. Among Comey’s top priorities will be to continue to fight against terrorism, investigate and prevent cyber crime and address traditional law enforcement duties such as corruption and scams. (FBI)
  • Davita Vance-Cooks continues to fill out her management team. After being sworn in as the 27th public printer in late August, Vance-Cooks named her deputy and chief administrative officer this week. Yesterday, Herbert Jackson became the chief administrative officer in charge of everything from human resources to technology to acquisitions to physical security. Jackson has been at GPO for more than 30 years, where he served in a number of different positions including contract specialist, director of procurement services and chief acquisitions officer. On Tuesday, Vance-Cooks named Jim Bradley to be the deputy public printer. Bradley has more than 40 years of experience in the printing business. As deputy public printer, Bradley will will oversee GPO’s marketing operations, which includes plant operations, official journals of government, security and intelligent documents, customer services, marketing and sales, and business products and services business units. (Government Printing Office)