Monday Morning Federal Newscast – December 13th

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.

  • Your federal pay freeze should be decided this week: With the emphasis on should. Without Senate passage of federal funding, the current continuing resolution expires Saturday night. The President’s proposed pay freeze is part of the funding package passed by the House last week and is now in the hands of the Senate.
  • Today’s the last day of open season. That means you have just hours left to make changes to your coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Premiums are going up, by a little more than 7-percent on average. And you could see a number of changes to your coverage, because of healthcare reform — including one that allows you to keep your children on your plan until they turn 26.
  • The Federal Salary Council is recommending a hike in locality pay for 2012. The council’s annual report to OPM, OMB and the Labor Department recommends a locality pay at just under 42 percent. The actual rate depends on the part of the country you’re in. Raising locality pay would go against the president’s request to freeze pay for civilian feds.
  • The Senate has passed a bill to add and beef up protection for some whistleblowers in the federal government. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act covers baggage screeners at the Transportation Security Administration, intelligence agency workers, federal scientists who challenge censorship and government contractors, among others. The bill calls for agency inspectors general to create whistleblower ombudsman positions to help employees understand their rights. The House version of the measure still hasn’t made it out of committee. But congressional sources tell GovExec the measure could be revived, now that it has cleared the Senate.
  • Two agencies are in danger of being overwhelmed with whistleblower complaints. Namely, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Both agencies are supposed to handle fraud tips, and pay bounties, under the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law. The SEC says it expects 30,000 tips a year. The Wall Street Journal reports, experience at the IRS shows how tough it will be to handle them. In fiscal 2010, the IRS got nearly 5,700 tips. 460 of them appear to entitle the tipsters to bounties. But the IRS hasn’t paid any bounties yet — four years into its whistleblower program. SEC has delayed setting up its whistleblower office, citing no budget.
  • The Marines are marching to a temporary halt. At least those not in uniform. The Corps has imposed a 90-day freeze on civilian hiring. Sheryl Murray, acting deputy commandant, says the freeze is an effort to reach efficiencies mandated in the Marine Corps’ fiscal 2012 budget request. It will also help the service meet cost cutting goals for the entire military imposed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. NextGov reports, a memo from Murray lists several exceptions to the freeze. Offers already extended in writing will be honored. The Corps will continue to fill certain information technology and overseas positions. And interns can still move into permanent positions.
  • A bid protest has led the Pentagon to extend a services contract with a company under criminal indictment. The Kuwaiti firm, Agility, has been charged with overbilling food contracts worth $8.5 billion. The contract is for services in Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait. The Pentagon chose another firm to replace Agility. But the Washington Post reports one of the losing bidders is protesting the award, saying the winner’s proposal doesn’t make the cut. The six-month extension is worth $26 million. And another company that DOD wants to replace will continue strategic communications work under a $5 million contract extension. The firm, Fulcra Worldwide, lost the contract to another firm. And they’re protesting. DOD, cited in the paper, says the extension was necessary in order to prevent unacceptable delays.
  • The Postal Service has a new CIO. Ellis Burgoyne has replaced Ross Philo, who will take a new position at USPS. The new Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, announced Burgoyne’s promotion as part of a several managment changes. He also announced new lieutenants for marketing, finance, legal and human resources. NextGov reports, Burgoyne served as vice president of operations for the Southwest Area. He was in charge of mail processing and distribution, customer service, and administrative operations. He startred in 1978 as a letter carrier in California.
  • The Treasury Department has sold the last of the federal government’s stock in Citigroup. That block, containing 2.4 million shares, sold for $10.5 billion. Under the Troubled Asset Relief Program launched in the final months of the Bush administration, Treasury invested 45 billion in Citigroup. Following the latest sale, the government’s total profit on the Citigroup stock reached $12 billion. Tim Massad, acting Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability, said the exit came faster, and more profitably, than the government expected.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission has turned over 600,000 square feet of excess space at Constitution Center to the General Services Administration. The Washington Business Journal reports the comes under a federal policy that mandates all agencies report their excess real estate. Just four months ago, the SEC signed a lease for 900,000 square feet of space in Southwest, the largest federal lease in a decade. The SEC has independent leasing authority, but it still has to report excess property. Now, that space is available to other federal agencies. Constitution Center was once the Department of Transportation headquarters.

More news links

GSA relinquishes claim to Walter Reed property (WashingtonPost)

Iraq contracts under appeal are extended (WashingtonPost)


Storm socks Midwest, cancels flights, closes roads

Holbrooke critical after surgery for torn aorta

Payroll tax cut worries Social Security advocates

Tucson, Pima Co., work to make sure Raytheon stays

‘I’m not a witch’ picked as top quote of year


Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

** Information sharing in the age of WikiLeaks — is there a way to share information effectively without sharing everything? We’ll talk to Thomas McNamara, the former program manager for the government’s Information Sharing Environment.

** We’ll continue looking at the big stories of 2010 with former OPM Director Linda Springer.

** And we’ll have your Monday TSP update.

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