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News briefs: Feb. 4

Feb. 3, 2013 - 01:01PM   |  
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Navy delays awards for NMCI replacement

Awards for some of the contracts to replace the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI, will be delayed, the Department of the Navy announced last week.

Navy officials originally planned to award one or two contracts to develop the Next Generation Enterprise Network by Feb. 12, but the award date has been pushed back to May.

“Due to the complexities of the NGEN requirements, we are changing our contract award estimate in order to ensure a complete and thorough review of offerors’ bids,” Ed Austin, spokesman for the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, said in a statement.

Three companies have announced their intent to bid on the NGEN contract: HP, and Computer Sciences Corp. and its partner, Harris Corp.

So far, the continuing resolution and the looming threat of automatic sequestration budget cuts have not affected NGEN’s contract award schedule, but that could change, the Navy said.

NMCI, operated by HP, serves more than 700,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel.

SBA, union sign new contract

The American Federation of Government Employees and the Small Business Administration last week signed a new contract covering more than 2,000 employees.

The three-year contract creates a flexible work schedule option that allows employees to work four 10-hour days per week, a series of new awards and expedited arbitration for employees who challenge poor performance ratings or denials of within-grade pay increases. It also expands transit subsidies and streamlines telework approval.

AFGE officials hailed the agreement as steps toward better relations with SBA, improved employee morale and agency effectiveness.

“This new agreement has many benefits for both the agency and the SBA employees, and it is a result of committed leadership,” AFGE National President J. David Cox said. “I commend SBA Administrator Karen Mills for her personal support of an agreement and hope that we will see many more labor agreements at other federal agencies settled in the next few months.”

Strategic sourcing worries contractors

Professional services contractors are worried that a new government purchasing strategy will emphasize low cost at the expense of quality.

The General Services Administration aims to conduct $9 billion worth of federal purchases this year using strategic sourcing contracts, in which multiple agencies use a single contract to buy products and services to obtain deeper bulk discounts.

“Fiscal pressures are driving labor costs down; we don’t need negotiations to do that,” Dale Luddeke, senior vice president of TASC Inc., a systems engineering and integration contractor, said at an event last week event held by three contractor trade associations.

Joseph Jordan, federal procurement policy administrator at the Office of Management and Budget, said he sees strategic sourcing eventually encompassing about $150 billion of the $513 billion the government spends on goods and services each year.

He said the government will work with contractors and other stakeholders to make the process more transparent. The focus, he said, will be on reducing overall consumption and encouraging more open competition.

Former CIA officer sentenced in leak case

A former CIA officer was sentenced to 30 months in prison Jan. 25 for disclosing the name of a covert operative to a journalist.

John Kiriakou, who worked as a CIA intelligence officer from 1990 to 2004, admitted to making illegal disclosures about two agency employees between 2007 and 2009, according to a news release from Neil MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Kiriakou “betrayed his colleagues whose secrecy is their only safety,” MacBride said in the release.

But Kiriakou’s defenders contend that he was punished for disclosing the CIA’s use of waterboarding in interrogating suspected terrorist operatives. Two days before his Jan. 25 sentencing, Kiriakou was honored with a portrait in the “Americans Who Tell the Truth” series by artist Robert Shetterly.

Kiriakou had agreed to the sentence as part of a plea bargain last fall.

Three leaders announce resignations

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue announced last week they are leaving.

In a Feb. 1 letter to Energy Department employees, Chu said he plans to resume teaching and research in California, but did not give an exact departure date.

LaHood, a former Republican congressman serving in President Obama’s Democratic administration, says he will stay until a successor is chosen and confirmed.

Astrue has headed the Social Security Administration since 2007 after being appointed by then-President George W. Bush.

“I consider it a great privilege to have led this remarkable agency for six years,” he said in a news release announcing his departure.

Astrue’s term officially expired Jan. 19, but he can remain in the post until the Senate confirms a successor.

Senate plans postal, DHS hearings

Sen. Tom Carper, the new chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, plans to hold hearings on the U.S. Postal Service and Department of Homeland Security, a spokeswoman said last week.

No dates have been set for the hearings, which will deal with the Postal Service’s worsening financial situation and provide an overview of DHS.

Carper, D-Del., was a sponsor last year of Senate-passed postal overhaul legislation that failed to win House approval.

In a joint statement last month, Carper and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said they have made “significant progress” in narrowing their differences and are committed to restoring the Postal Service to long-term financial solvency.

Army Corps paid for underused Afghan facility

A $7.3 million facility for Afghan border police was built with Army Corps of Engineers funding to house 175 people but is staffed by only 12, a new report states.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction inspected the Imam Sahib Border Police Co. headquarters in Kunduz province and found most of the buildings locked and unused.

Personnel stationed there are not trained to make key repairs or operate much of the equipment, including backup generators and heating and cooling systems, according to the report.

The Army Corps agreed with the IG’s recommendation to review plans to determine if the facility, and other planned police facilities, are needed or can be downsized or redesigned to reduce costs.

OPM awards contract to run benefits computers

The Office of Personnel Management last week awarded a $17 million contract to Salient Federal Solutions to help run the agency’s computer systems for retirement, health care, insurance and other benefits.

Salient said it will operate, maintain and improve OPM’s benefit computer software.

The contract is for one year, with three additional one-year options.

Contractor fined for delayed death reports

The Labor Department’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs last week agreed to a $75,000 settlement with security contractor The Sandi Group for not reporting in a timely manner the injuries and deaths of 30 employees in Iraq from 2003 to 2005.

Companies are required by law to report any injury or death to the Labor Department within 10 days. The Sandi Group of Washington agreed to steeper fines in the future, according to a Labor Department news release.

Labor requires the information quickly to be able to deliver timely death benefits for survivors, according to Gary Steinberg, acting OWCP director.

CIOs step down at NASA, FAA

Chief information officers at NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration are leaving.

Linda Cureton said last week she will retire April 1, after more than three years as NASA CIO. She previously served as CIO at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, deputy CIO at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and in executive roles at the Energy and Justice departments. NASA said it expects to appoint a new CIO by April.

Steve Cooper stepped down as FAA deputy CIO on Jan. 31, with plans to return to the private sector. In 2009, Cooper took a leave of absence from The Strativest Group to serve as CIO at FAA’s Air Traffic Organization.

GAO to review performance management experiment

Congressional auditors will be inspecting how well the government’s latest effort at performance management is going.

The controversial program — called GEAR — is being tested at five agencies and, if successful, could be expanded to cover many federal employees. GEAR stands for Goals-Engagement-Accountability-Results.

The Office of Personnel Management is championing the program and has said improving performance management through GEAR is a necessary first step toward a longer-term goal of overhauling the General Schedule system.

GEAR was launched in late 2011 and seeks to create a culture of ongoing, continuous feedback between managers and employees. Under the program, managers are supposed to hold quarterly performance reviews with their employees, and agencies are expected to improve how they select supervisors and require mandatory training for them on how to manage their employees’ performance. Some federal unions are skeptical about how effective GEAR will be.

Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, asked the Government Accountability Office on Jan. 4 to report on the program’s status.

Obama names nominees to lead SEC, consumer bureau

Stressing enforcement of new Wall Street regulations, President Obama last month nominated former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission.

During the Clinton administration, White served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. She specialized in white-collar crime.

If confirmed by the Senate, White would replace Elisse Walter, the acting chair in the wake of Mary Schapiro’s resignation in December.

Obama also renominated Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama had made Cordray a recess appointment after Senate Republicans opposed his initial nomination. The recess appointment expires at the end of the year.

New commissioner for Federal Acquisition Service

Thomas Sharpe, the Treasury Department’s senior procurement executive, has been tapped to be the new commissioner of the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service.

As FAS commissioner, Sharpe will oversee GSA’s $55 billion government procurement operation.

GSA began looking for a new commissioner in September after former commissioner Steve Kempf took medical leave in July.

FAS was among GSA agencies that came under fire last year for excessive conference spending.

Marie Davie — acting FAS commissioner after Kempf left — will return to her role as assistant commissioner of integrated technology services.

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