Eye Opener: Agencies to pay bills in a FIT fashion
Happy Monday! The Obama administration on Monday will open a new office at the Treasury Department designed to help federal agencies pay their bills more efficiently.
The Treasury Department and Office of Management and Budget will merge some financial management responsibilities into the new Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation (FIT). The office's 10 to 15 staffers will work to help reduce the estimated $750 million federal agencies spend annually to process paper invoices for payments to contractors and other agencies, according to a Treasury official. The new office is also part of the administration's ongoing budget efforts to cut overlapping offices across the government, officials said.
"All agencies will work closely with Treasury and OMB to charge a new course for financial management," said Acting Treasury Fiscal Assistant Secretary Dick Gregg said in a statement set for release later Monday.
FIT will give chief financial officers at federal agencies better access to financial management technology that administration officials admit the government has been slow to adopt. Much of the new tools will be web-based, making it easier to post public financial information online and eliminate duplicative data entry, according to a Treasury spokesman.
The office first will focus on processing contractor invoices electronically, finding ways to electronically process transactions for goods and services between federal agencies and will push agencies to use electronic processing instead of paper for all transactions, officials said. It anticipates partnering with a few agencies on pilot projects in hopes of producing initial results by the fall.
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• Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama checks "Black/African Am/Negro" on his Census form. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner delays a long awaited currency report... and what should he tell Indian officials when he lands in India tonight? Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens says "will surely retire" during the Obama administration, but Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) warns he should wait as Solicitor General Elena Kagan and two federal judges are on the short list to replace him. Hamid Karzai calls Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to clarify some recent remarks that caused "concern." Economic Adviser Lawrence Summers predicts job growth. Here we go again: Gen. David Petraeus for President? Actor Kal Penn leaves the White House to go back to Hollywood to make lame movies. Remembering Gerald Ford's first press secretary, Jerald terHorst. Longtime White House Butler Eugene Allen dies at age 90.
ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS:
• Army Corps of Engineers unit tightens contract standards: The agency's unit with major construction projects in Afghanistan made the move following a report from the Defense Department's watchdog saying that more than $20 million in performance-award fees could not be supported.
• Drones batter Qaeda and allies within Pakistan: A stepped-up campaign of American drone strikes over the past three months has battered Al Qaeda and its Pakistani and Afghan brethren in the tribal area of North Waziristan, according to a mid-ranking militant and supporters of the government there.
• Air Force to launch robotic winged space plane: The ultimate purpose of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and details about the craft, which has been passed between several government agencies, however, remain a mystery as it is prepared for launch April 19 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY:
• New adversary in U.S. drug war: Contract killers for Mexican cartels: A cross-border drug gang born in the prison cells of Texas has evolved into a sophisticated paramilitary killing machine that U.S. and Mexican officials suspect is responsible for thousands of assassinations in Mexico.
• In school aid contest, many states left behind: The initial results of the Obama administration’s signature school improvement initiative, known as Race to the Top, have left many states questioning the criteria by which winners were chosen.
• Input of teachers unions key to successful entries in Race to the Top: The announcement that Delaware had won about $100 million highlighted that all of the state's teachers unions backed the plan for tougher teacher evaluations linked to student achievement. In second-place Tennessee, which won about $500 million, 93 percent of unions were on board.
• FAA hears distress calls. How well it responds is another matter.: GPS devices can direct commuters to the nearest Starbucks, but when it comes to downed small planes and helicopters in the U.S., rescue teams are not always getting the critical information that can mean the difference between life or death for crash victims.
• FAA error-reporting program reveals hazards, yields fixes: A new error-reporting program in the nation's air-traffic system is revealing thousands of previously unknown hazards such as dangerous runway crossings and unreported midair problems.
• Potential risk to blood supply probed: Efforts are under way to find effective tests for the virus and determine its prevalence, led by a working group funded by the National Institutes of Health and including federal agencies such as the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
• Four women rendezvous in Space 50 years after the first: The $100 billion International Space Station is to host the biggest non-Earth gathering of women, with one arriving on board a Russian Soyuz capsule on Sunday and three more due to join her this week.
• Discovery cleared for launch: Mission managers met Saturday and gave the "go" to proceed toward liftoff. The unanimous decision came after engineers determined that there were no booster rocket safety concerns.
• U.S. aims to ease India-Pakistan tension: President Obama issued a secret directive in December to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between the two countries, asserting that without détente between the two rivals, the administration's efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer.
• Cautious praise for travel screening change: Lawmakers, civil liberties groups and security experts warned that too little is known to conclude that the revised policy will be effective and not discriminatory.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS:
• Few veterans have applied for increase in benefits: Only a fraction of wounded veterans eligible for better benefits has applied for them in the two years since Congress ordered the Pentagon to review disputed claims.
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