SEVEN stories that impact your life for Wednesday the 15th of August, 2012
- The General Services Administration has frozen per diem travel rates. For fiscal year 2014, the standard rate will stand at $77 a day for lodging and $46 a day for meals and incidental expenses. Federal Times says the higher rates will still apply for expensive cities like New York or Los Angeles. GSA says the freeze follows White House orders to cut travel spending 30 percent next year. Check out GovLoop's Per Diem Calculator, to see how you can save money on travel expenses.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general is looking into allegations of wasteful spending at two conferences that cost the VA at least $5 million. Federal Times says attendees received tens of thousands of dollars worth of swag. The training conferences took place in Orlando, Florida in July and August of last year. The IG is also looking into whether federal employees improperly accepted gifts of spa treatments and concert tickets.
- For years the Department of Veterans Affairs has been dogged by complaints that the claims process is painfully slow. Now an inspector general report has found that VA’s are literally drowning in paperwork. NBC News reports, at the VA's Winston-Salem Regional Office in North Carolina, an estimated 37,000 claims folders had been stored on top of file cabinets. Those piles had been stacked two feet high and two rows deep. The file cabinets were so close to each other that drawers could not be opened completely. More files had been stored in boxes on the floor and stacked along the wall. The VA is working with the Department of Defense to create an integrated electronic medical record that could be used between both agencies, but it will not launch until at least 2017.
- Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno’s says his top priority in 2013 will be updating tactical radios, mapping programs and smartphones known collectively as the Network. DoD Buzz reports, Odierno says the modernization of the Army Network is ahead of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, and the Ground Combat Vehicle. Army leaders have worked hard to amend an acquisition system that has struggled to keep up with technology.
- Mitre has been ranked the number Best Employer for Work-Life Balance by the jobs community site Glassdoor.com. Mitre manages Federally Funded Research and Development Centers. Certain Mitre locations maintain on-site fitness centers, locker rooms, outdoor recreation areas, health fairs, ergonomic evaluations, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and physical therapy. Glassdoor’s 2012 ranking of the top companies for work-life balance is based on a survey of 385,000 employees over the past 12 months. Only companies with more than 500 employees were considered.
- Customs and Border Protection is gearing up to test some new high tech border surveillance: military blimps. The agency hopes they'll help find drug smugglers and people crossing the Mexico border illegally. The Wall Street Journal reports the military will test the $1 million blimps in the next few weeks. If all goes well, it could just give them to CBP free of charge. This is part of a bigger CBP attempt to revitalize its high-tech border security plan. Last year, Homeland Security pulled the plug on the troubled SBInet.
- And on GovLoop, is your office like a family? A McKinsey study found that family-controlled companies outperform their competitors and extracts some lessons for creating great teams. Do you agree? Does your organization feel and perform like a family?
On today’s program
- How do you change an organization? Some might say you need to be a rebel. We’ll talk to a former CIA official about how you are a successful rebel.
- Ex-Federal -- It’s like the match dot com site for former federal contractors who are looking to go to the private sector.
- And in the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder: running government like a business and the Mars rover in the cloud