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Figuring out the procurement maze with OFPP’s Joe Jordan and can the government speak plainly?

On today’s program

  • Working in procurement is a little like working in a maze, there are lots of new and different regulations around every corner. But there are some ways to make it easier. Joe Jordan is the administrator in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. He’ll tell us his tips.Click here for the full story.
  • Does your agency make the grade for speaking in plain language? Find out where your agency ranks with Dr. Annetta Cheek for the Center for Plain Language. Click here for the full story.

Do you have Olympic fever? I know I do. And now there is a real fed connection —

Army Staff Sergeant Vincent Hancock has earned a new a medal, but it isn’t coming from military. Hancock won a gold medal in skeet shooting at the Olympicsin London. He also won gold at the Beijing Olympics four years ago. Hancock will finish his military service in November…after which he hopes to start his own shooting academy in his home state of Georgia.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life for Wednesday the 1st of August, 2012

  1. Congress has averted a government shutdown for now. Politico reports House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed on a six-month continuing resolution to begin October 1st. Congress is about to recess, so the bill won’t be voted on until lawmakers return after Labor Day. Reid said the CR will provide stability. Both parties want to avoid a potential government shutdown a month before national elections. A continuing resolution would let agencies operate at 2012 budget levels.
  2. The head of the Thrift Savings Plan expressed regret over not having a policy in place earlier to notify participants of security breaches to their retirement accounts. That has now been fixed, the executive director of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board Greg Long told a Senate subcommittee. Unfortunately that plan was put into place some two months after the board learned of a 2011 cyberattack that led to the unauthorized access to the accounts of as many as 123,000 plan participants and other recipients of TSP plan payments. Government Executive reports that Long blamed “a lack of resources” for the board’s inability to develop a plan to inform TSP participants of security breaches when they occur. He said that the past decade has been a time of dramatic expansion for the agency, in the number of participants, the dollars invested in the TSP and the services provided to our participants and beneficiaries, and that this growth taxed the agency’s ability to complete all that needed to be done. We have a link to Long’s testimony online…
  3. Sweeping changes could be coming to the Combined Federal Campaign — the charity arm for the federal government.Government Executive reports a commission, launched in 2011 and headed by two former members of Congress have recommended two dozen improvements to the Combined Federal Campaign. The commission suggested widening the donor base by including retirees and contractors, using online technologies to centralize giving options and reducing administrative costs to improve efficiency… and we have a link to that report online…
  4. The a new bill in the house is targeting unpaid taxes and charge card misuses by federal employees. The Washington Post says the Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act would make anyone who has a “seriously delinquent” tax debt ineligible for federal employment. In general, that phrase would cover tax debts for which a notice of lien has been filed in public records, but there would be exceptions, including debts being paid in a timely manner under an installment agreement, and debts determined to be an economic hardship to the debtor. The bill is expected to be voted on early next week.
  5. A new website is about to launch that will connect former feds with contractors. GovExec says Exfederal.com will launch in September. The site was founded by Ginger Groeber, a former human resources official in the Pentagon, and by Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. The site is currently undergoing beta testing, but already lists many open positions.
  6. The Labor Department says federal contractors should refrain from warning their employees about potential layoffs due to the possibility of automatic budget cuts taking effect January 2nd.Federal Times says the 1988 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) requirescontractors to give employees 60 days’ notice before mass layoffs or facility closings.
  7. And on GovLoop, at our Next Generation of Government Training Summit we talked a lot about being iterative and failing fast. But how exactly do you kill a project? That’s the question of GovLoop member Bill Brantely. And there is a discussion going on about making that difficult decision to cut your losses and kill a program. It’s GovLoop — we’d love your thoughts.

A few items in for your watercooler fodder

Amid Olympic fever, there is also a lot excitement about the new Mars rover… Curiosity, which is scheduled to land in four days.

Space.com notes that Mars is our next-door neighbor in the solar system, but it is that neighbor that we don’t know much about. And so we’re heading there to learn more. The centerpiece of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, the Curiosity rover comes packed with a slew of instruments to study not only today’s Martian surface, but also the surface of the past. And the BBC reports that it all starts with a pretty crazy landing.

And finally, a note… Earlier this year on this program — in April — we spoke to Jonah Lehrer about his book, Imagine, which is about how creativity actually happens.

And you may have heard that Jonah Lehrer has recentlyresigned from his post at The New Yorker after he acknowledged that he took pieces of Bob Dylan quotes and pieced them together — essentially, he made them up.

Sharon Waxman of the Wrap has an interesting piece saying that Lehrer is a cautionary tale for overachievers — and, I might add, those who manage overachievers. Lehrer was writing books, columns, doing interviews… more than anybody could really do, even for somebody who is clearly as bright as he is. And there is probably a lesson there for all of us who have smart people — and how to pace them so they aren’t overworked.

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