Thursday Morning Federal Newscast – September 30th

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Congress passes a continuing resolution to keep agencies running after today. The Senate approved the temporary spending bill 69 to 30 yesterday. The House cleared it several hours later, 228 to 194. The new federal fiscal year begins at midnight. Now the bill goes to the president for signature. Both chambers of Congress have adjourned, and they don’t return until mid-November, after the elections.
  • DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced a bill to give federal employees access to cheaper disability insurance. Norton says the measure is necessary because many feds are buying individual insurance plans that often have higher premiums. She says her bill would leverage the purchasing power of the government. But it wouldn’t cost the government anything. Under her plan, insurers wouldn’t be able to deny coverage because of preexisting conditions.
  • The Senate voted to pass the compromise version of a teleworking bill that expands telework access across the government. The finalized bill is still pending approval in the House before it can be signed by President Obama, and will now be on hold until the lame-duck session of the House reconvenes in December. The Senate passed its original version of the bill in May, and the House followed suit in July. The compromise bill makes all federal employees eligible for telework, as opposed to the current procedure in which employees must prove a need. It also requires that agencies incorporate telework into their continuity of operations plans (COOP).
  • Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu says she will not lift her hold on the nomination of Jacob Lew to be the next OMB director. Landrieu says she placed the hold because of the administration’s temporary ban on offshore drilling for oil and gas. She says the moratorium is putting the Gulf Coast economy at risk. The pause in drilling was ordered after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Reform of the Federal Protective Service moved a step closer when the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee approved an overhaul bill. The Service, part of the Homeland Security Department, has the responsibility for protecting federal buildings. It’s been hit by a series of stinging Government Accountability Office reports. In one instance, investigators were able to bring bomb making materials into a secure building. GovExec reports, the bill would establish training standards for 15,000 contacted guards, while giving the agency the authority to hire 500 more staff.
  • More bad news on federal financial systems. A Government Accountability Office investigator tells Senators, the Pentagon has run up $6.9 billion in cost overruns on a department-wide financial system. NextGov reports, after spending $5.8 billion on nine subsystems, most of them are at least two years late. At stake is the ability for the armed services to produce clean financial audits. The GAO’s Asif Khan tells the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee the system is supposed to replace 500 legacy systems that are expensive to operate. The Pentagon is hoping for audits by 2017.
  • The cash-strapped Postal Service has just hours to fund its retiree health program with $5.5 billion, reports GovExec. Congress has adjourned without giving the agency the $4 billion bailout it had hoped for. Federal law requires USPS to prefund the retiree health fund. But the Postal Service has been struggling with money, losing almost $8 billion this year. The health fund payment is due before the new fiscal year starts at midnight.
  • This might help a little. The Postal Regulatory Commission is expected today to increase the cost of a stamp by 2 cents – to 46 cents. The Postal Service lost $3.8 billion last year and is on track to lose $7 billion this year and next. The last time postal rates went up was in July.
  • The House approved a three-year, $58 billion blueprint for NASA, approving a bill similar to one the Senate passed last month. It backs President Obama’s goal of using commercial carriers to take astronauts into near earth orbit. And it extends the life of the space shuttle program for a year. It dismantles the Constellation program, a heavy lift rocket former President Bush wanted to return astronauts to the moon. But it extends the life of the International Space Station from 2015 to 2020. The bill passed by the House on a 304-118, and the president is expected to sign it.
  • New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is asking the State Department for help in finding missing a pair of missing balloonists. Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis were participating in a gas balloon race, which started in southern England on September 25th. They have been reported missing over the Adriatic Sea. The Albuquerque Business Journal reports that Governor Richardson is asking State to secure military assets in Italy and Albania to aid in the search.
  • China and the United States have agreed to resume normal military contacts. China had cut off talks after the U.S. agreed to a six billion dollar arms sale to Taiwan. But following a visit to China by a senior Pentagon official, the two countries said they’ll hold discussions on maritime security. Talks are scheduled for next month in Hawaii. China will send its top military leaders for a visit to the United States later this year.
  • Software vendor Deltek has acquired the federal market research firm Input. The $60 million deal is expected to close tomorrow. Input provides market forecasts and advisories of federal contracting opportunities to federal contractors. Deltek sells management software for federal contractors.

More news links

Federal Government Forms a Work Group on MRSA in Meat (HuffingtonPost)

Congress sends intelligence bill to Obama


Study: vets’ health costs could top $900 billion

Congress stays out of Coast Guard Academy picks


Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

** Does the amount of time you use the Internet impact your trust in government? We’ll talk to two researchers who have studied the question and we’ll get details of their surprising findings

** And does the Defense Department have the right people with the right skills doing the right jobs at the right time? GAO has looked at that question and we’ll talk to them.

Join Chris from 3 to 7 pm on 1500 AM or on your computer.