Wednesday federal headlines – January 22, 2014

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 says federal employees can get to work up to two hours late today. Not a popular decision, judging from OPM Director Katherine Archuleta’s Facebook page. “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. And Reckless.” Federal employees complain about the conditions of side roads and having to work when their kids cannot go to school. Some are coming to Archuleta’s defense, thanking OPM for making a decision the night before. Archuleta says in her post, telework is an option. Otherwise, give yourself extra time to dig out and get into work. (Federal News Radio)
  • An employees’ group accuses the National Weather Service of taking unnecessary risks by leaving vacancies open. There are 451 unfilled jobs nationwide. The Weather Service has frozen hiring since March. The NWS Employees Organization says the agency has $125 million it could use to fill the positions. The information came out during arbitration over the empty slots. Most of that money is set aside for procurement and construction so it would have to be reprogrammed. (National Weather Service Employees Organization)
  • The General Services Administration finally has money to pay for much-needed upgrades to federal offices. The agency says it will spend $1 billion on repairs and maintenance this year, thanks to the spending bill passed by Congress last week. That’s just a fraction of the amount GSA says it needs to attend to all 9,000 buildings in its inventory. But it is progress from recent years. Administrator Dan Tangherlini testified to Congress, some of those repairs are must-do’s, like replacing boilers and roofs. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Postal Service is letting facilities get ragged around the edges. Postponed repairs and maintenance are even leading to safety and security issues at some places. The office of the inspector general raises red flags on its blog. It says the agency cut $382 million from its building maintenance budget between 2009 and 2012. The Postal Service says neither employees nor customers are in danger. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Department got a dart and a laurel from the Government Accountability Office. In new reports, auditors chided the Pentagon for being vague about accounting for claimed efficiencies. But they praised the Pentagon’s travel and conference policy as compliant with White House guidelines. On the purported savings, auditors looked at an effort launched in 2010 to reduce costs and reinvest the savings in force sustainment. The armed services have become more consistent in what and how they report to senior officials, GAO said. But as a whole, the department lacks a systematic basis for evaluating its efficiency drive. On travel, auditors found DoD not only follows conference spending guidelines but also issues full reports, as required by the Office of Management and Budget. (Government Accountability Office)
  • It knows the orders are coming in, but it wants to know from exactly which individuals. The General Services Administration is asking for users of its MILSTRIP (Military Standard Requisitioning and Issue Procedures) program to send in their individual contact information. The agency wants to survey MILSTRIP users, but only knows the depots and shipping drops where MILSTRIP supplies go, not the people doing the ordering. MILSTRIP lets military users order from GSA Global Supply contracts for shipment throughout the world. (General Services Administration)
  • National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson has taken to advising citizens how to avoid tax problems associated with Obamacare. In an interview with the Associated Press, Olson outlines several steps taxpayers need to take in order to avoid problems with the 2015 filing season. People buying health care insurance through or one of the state exchanges could get caught if they take a subsidy, then get a big raise. Olson praises the IRS for accuracy in verifying the incomes of people applying for the insurance subsidies. But she says the IRS must do more to educate the public. She suggests that the agency add more Obamacare information to its website. (Associated Press)
  • The FCC resumes auctioning radio spectrum today, ending a six-year hiatus. The Wall Street Journal reports, the four national wireless carriers along with a satellite television operator are expected spend up to $46 billion over the next two years on pieces of available spectrum. This week, the FCC wants to get at least $1.6 billion for a section of spectrum known as H Block. That’s expected to go to Dish Networks. The last auction was 2008, before the advent of the Apple iPhone. (Wall Street Journal)