Tuesday federal headlines – May 27, 2014

  • Two Democratic Senators join their House counterparts in calling for a 3.3 percent federal pay hike. The bill proposed by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) would raise pay for both General Schedule and hourly employees. It would go into effect for calendar year 2015. A three-year freeze on federal salaries ended January 1st of this year. That’s when President Obama signed an executive order for a one percent raise. House Democrats introduced their pay rise bill in March. (Federal News Radio)
  • Eight more agencies will join the 16 who are using data driven reviews of their HR performance. In the HRstat sessions, personnel examine the data to see how they are performing. The reviews take place quarterly. The Office of Personnel Management will confer with the Chief Human Capital Officers Council. They’ll come up with a new list of human resources metrics agencies can share. Metrics can include how long it takes to hire someone, or how long after a hire it takes to get them in on the job. The White House wants all agencies to use HRstat in 2015. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Obama administration accidentally revealed the name of the CIA’s top official in Afghanistan. That could put his and his family’s life in danger. The flub occurred during President Obama’s surprise trip to Bagram Air Field on Sunday. Administration flacks e-mailed a reporter a list of embassy staff the president had met with. It included one identified as Kabul “chief of station”. The Washington Post reporter, representing the news media, forwarded the e-mail to 6,000 people in the White House press pool list. The Post, Associated Press and other outlets agreed not to publish the name. Because the Afghanistan station chief is known to Afghan officials and lives in a heavily guarded compound, he may be able to continue in his job. (Associated Press)
  • The Pentagon is keeping its distance from the Justice Department’s cyber espionage indictment of Chinese army officers. U.S. military officials plan to continue interactions with the People’s Liberation Army and PLA Navy. U.S. Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Jonathan Greenert says he still plans to visit China in July. He’s supposed to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli, who visited the United States in September. As far as U.S. officers can tell, China still plans to send naval ships to this summer’s Rim of the Pacific exercises. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says Defense officials consider the May 19 indictments a judicial affair. (Defense News)
  • The Obama administration’s decision to let veterans seek medical treatment at private hospitals could relieve some overloaded VA facilities. It’s not clear how much the new initiative will cost. The VA spends about $5 billion a year now on health care at outside centers. That’s about ten percent of the health care costs for the Veterans Health Administration. At the same time, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki says the VA network is enhancing capacity so vets can get care sooner. Meanwhile, some in Congress want the Justice Department to investigate allegations of doctored appointment logs at VA facilities. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) tells CBS, there is “credible and specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.” (Associated Press)
  • More than 318,000 federal employees and retirees owe money to the IRS. The agency says the total tax bill amounts to $3.3 billion. The overall numbers are in keeping with past years. Percentage-wise, federal employees are much better than the public at paying taxes on time. About 97 percent of feds pay up by April 15, compared with about 91 percent of the overall population. The Treasury Department, appropriately, has the lowest rate of tax deliquency, at 1.2 percent of workers. (Associated Press)
  • Congress may be skeptical about plans to consolidate military bases in the United States, but the Pentagon is having better luck abroad. The Defense Department is returning 21 European facilities to their host nations. It says it will save about $60 million a year. None of the changes impact military operations. The facilities include several sites in Italy that the military no longer needs after a consolidation. They also include a golf course in Germany, skeet ranges and recreation centers, old hotels, family housing and shops that have been replaced by newer versions. All have been vetted in a BRAC-like process. (Defense Department)
  • First lady Michelle Obama speaks Tuesday in defense of an initiative to make school lunches healthier. She will host school nutrition officials at the White House. The Agriculture Department has dealt with ups and downs as it administers the new standards, which emphasize fruits and veggies and downplays fat, sugar and sodium. The department has scrapped limits on the amount of proteins and grains that kids could eat after students complained they were hungry. Last week, it announced it would allow some schools to delay serving whole grain pastas. A House subcommittee has passed a bill that would let schools opt out of the program if they lose money for six months in a row. (Associated Press)