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News Briefs: May 27

May. 27, 2012 - 11:58AM   |  
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The Senate confirmed Joseph Jordan Thursday as the Obama administration’s new chief of contracting policy.

As administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), Jordan will be expected to reduce federal contract spending, consolidate duplicative contracts across the government, and tighten rules to ensure that agencies properly use and manage contracts.

Members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee pointed to improper contracting practices by the General Services Administration in preparation for a 2010 conference in Las Vegas conference as an example of the type of waste and abuse that they would like Jordan to stop. GSA’s inspector general found that officials failed to publish solicitations and use competition when awarding contracts for team-building exercises and audio-visual services at the conference.

Several nominees for high-ranking Defense Department positions were also confirmed, including Frank Kendall as undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics; James Miller as undersecretary for policy; and Erin Conaton as undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

Jeff Neely, the organizer of a lavish 2010 Las Vegas conference that has become a national symbol of government waste, today retired from the General Services Administration.

A GSA source also confirmed that four other unidentified officials have left the agency over the $823,000 Western Regions Conference, which featured mind readers, parties, and parody skits. The White House chief of staff called the conference “a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Neely, who was the Region 9 commissioner for GSA’s Public Buildings Service, was placed on paid administrative leave after an inspector general report on April 2 exposed excessive and wasteful spending on the conference and other trips.

The report found Neely wasted tens of thousands of dollars in government funds on unnecessary trips, parties, activities and swag. GSA Inspector General Brian Miller said Neely fostered a culture of “putting people down” who objected to his spending decisions.

The White House is overstating the progress agencies are making in overhauling their information technology operations, federal auditors said Thursday.

With a month to go left in the White House’s 18-month federal IT reform plan, agencies are far from reaching their goals to consolidate data centers, migrate operations to the cloud, and empower their chief information officers, among other things, according to the Government Accountability Office.

GAO official David Powner said at a Senate hearing Thursday that agencies have completed only three of 10 key action items in the plan released December 2010 by then-Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra. OMB calls the reform plan the 25-Point Plan.

“Our review shows less progress than what OMB reports,” said Powner, GAO’s director of information technology management issues.

“In prematurely declaring the action items to be completed, OMB risks losing momentum on the progress it has made to date,” he said. He recommended that the federal chief information officer hold agencies accountable for completing reform goals by June and that agencies provide clear timeframes for addressing their shortfalls.

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