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News Digest: Sept. 10

Sep. 9, 2012 - 02:38PM   |  
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National Capital CFC lowers fundraising goal

The National Capital Region Combined Federal Campaign has decreased its 2012 fund-raising goal to $62 million — $5.2 million less than last year.

Tough economic times, fewer new hires at federal agencies and more employees taking buyouts were contributing factors in the decision, said Brandon Haller, who chairs the Local Federal Coordinating Committee.

“I think we are going to have fewer employees,” said Haller of the campaign’s potential donor base.

In 2011, the campaign collected more than $64.5 million in pledges but fell short of its $67.2 million goal.

While the fundraising goal has decreased, the campaign is aiming to increase employee participation from 32 to 34 percent.

“Don’t let the tough times get in the way,” Renee Acosta, president of Global Impact, the nonprofit managing the National Capital Area campaign, told agencies’ CFC representatives at a leadership conference last week.

The campaign also plans to:

• Increase online giving and electronic pledges to donate.

• Use social media to connect with campaign workers, new donors and current donors.

• Highlight CFC’s core benefits in all campaign materials.

GSA administrator to testify at Senate hearing

Dan Tangherlini, acting administrator for the General Services Administration, will appear before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Sept. 12 to answer questions about his efforts to reform the flailing agency.

Tangherlini took the reins at GSA after an April 2 inspector general report that found wasteful spending at a lavish $823,000 GSA conference in 2010 in Las Vegas.

The report forced the resignation of former GSA Administrator Martha Johnson and the firing of top agency officials. Tangherlini then instituted sweeping reforms at the agency and promised a top-to-bottom review of all spending.

GSA Inspector General Brian Miller will also testify about his ongoing investigations into GSA conference and travel spending.

Energy-efficient data center under construction

The Energy Department is working with the private sector to build one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the country.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is partnering with Hewlett-Packard and Intel Corp. on the center, which is expected to be 94 percent more efficient than the average data center.

Construction of the $10 million data center, located at NREL’s new Energy Systems Integration Facility in Golden, Colo., is underway. It will use high-performance, energy-efficient computers and reuse 70 percent of the waste heat generated from operations to heat its offices and laboratory space.

“All together, the efficiency of the data center, the energy efficiency features of the [high-performance computing] system and the system’s ability to reuse heat will combine to lower overall energy use, deliver substantial energy savings and reduce significant costs,” spokeswoman Cori Sue Morris said in a news release.

Retirement applications increase in August

Nearly 9,000 federal employees applied for retirement in August — the most since January, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

So far this year, 74,725 federal employees have applied for retirement. That is nearly 2 percent more than the 73,585 employees who applied for retirement in the first eight months of 2011.

By the end of 2011, federal retirements had increased 24 percent over the previous year.

OPM received 8,973 retirement claims in August — 12 percent more than the 8,000 it expected last month, and nearly 15 percent more than retired in August 2011.

August had the second-highest number of retirements in 2012, second only to January, which traditionally records a massive number of retirements each year.

But even though retirements are increasing, OPM was able to keep its processing rate up last month and cut its backlog of unprocessed claims from 44,679 to 41,787 — a 6 percent decrease.

OPM processed 11,865 claims in August. That is a decrease from July’s 12,304 claims processed, but still above the 11,500 claims OPM expected to process last month. And August was the third most-productive processing month this year.

OPM earlier this year enacted several reforms to try to fix its sluggish pension processing system.

Those changes included hiring and training 56 new legal administrative specialists to process more cases; overhauling workflow processes to give those specialists more time to work on cases; and working more closely with agencies to help them submit retirement application packages with fewer missing documents or other mistakes.

Solar at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base

The Air Force and SunEdison are teaming up to design, finance and build a solar array for 170 acres of underutilized property at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

Construction of the 14.5-megawatt photovoltaic project will begin as soon as possible, with completion planned for no later than December, the Air Force said last month.

The agreement is expected to save the base $400,000 to $500,000 a year in utility costs.

Complying with the National Environmental Policy Act has been challenging in Arizona, where many historical Native American areas exist, said Ken Gray, the rates and renewables branch chief at the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

“Getting this project through the developmental stage has highlighted to us areas where we need to improve our process of garnering approval and authority to do our renewable-energy projects,” he said.

GSA moves ahead with plan for new L.A. courthouse

The General Services Administration has issued a notice that it intends to move forward with plans to build a $322 million courthouse in Los Angeles, even as a key lawmaker opposes its construction.

GSA said it will issue a request for proposals for the 600,000-square-foot facility, which will house the U.S. District Court, Federal Protective Service, U.S. Marshals Service and a GSA field office. The agency plans to finish the facility in 2016.

But Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees public buildings, said the project is a waste of money.

“We know we will have too much space, costing the taxpayer significant sums, if a new courthouse is built in L.A.,” Denham said at an Aug. 17 hearing.

The Government Accountability Office said in a 2010 report that more than a quarter of the new courthouse space across the country is unneeded, costing $835 million to construct and $51 million annually to maintain.

GSA has maintained that the GAO report was flawed and that its courthouses have a high rate of use.

NASA Langley building rated LEED Platinum

The General Services Administration announced last week the completion of a new NASA facility in Hampton, Va.

The new Langley Research Center headquarters was built to use 59 percent less electricity and 41 percent less potable water than traditional office buildings of the same size — which will save NASA $2.5 million annually in reduced costs.

The facility also earned LEED Platinum certification, the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

The facility is the first in a multiphase project called “New NASA Town,” where a sustainable campus will be built around the new facility.

Per diem to rise in 10 cities only beginning Oct. 1

The General Services Administration has frozen most per diem rates for fiscal 2013, but 10 areas will get a boost beginning Oct. 1.

The 10, which now have the standard per diems of $77 for lodging and $46 for meals and incidentals, will increase as follows:

• Bakersfield/Ridgecrest, Calif.: $86 for lodging; $51 for meals.

• Stockton, Calif.: $83 for lodging; $56 for meals.

• Hancock and Pearl River counties, Miss.: $82 for lodging; $56 for meals.

• Sidney/Glendive, Mont.: $90-$96 for lodging; $56 for meals.

• Dickinson/Beulah, N.D.: $104-$118 for lodging; $56 for meals.

• Minot, N.D.: $100-$112 for lodging; $56 for meals.

• Williston, N.D.: $90-$96 for lodging; $56 for meals.

• Carlsbad, N.M.: $89 for lodging; $51 for meals.

• Watertown, N.Y.: $99 for lodging; $56 for meals.

• Pasco, Wash.: $93 for lodging; $46 for meals.

Rule would increase data on contractor performance

Contracting officers may soon be asked to provide more information about how well contractors perform, under a procurement rule proposed last week.

The rule would require contracting officers to evaluate contractors on: quality of product or service: cost control; timeliness; management; and small-business subcontracting. They would also have to report if contractors violated regulations, such as paying subcontractors late, tax delinquency, or defective cost and pricing data.

The rule would implement recommendations from the Government Accountability Office and directives from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to improve the information available on companies’ performance.

The rule is open to public comments, which can be submitted at, until Nov. 5.

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