Friday morning federal headlines – August 26

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.

  • For hundreds of miles, as many as 65 million people along the East Coast — from North Carolina, to Virginia, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and beyond — are all waiting for Hurricane Irene. And FEMA, which is already staging in and around areas that will likely be affected, is waiting too. The National Incident Management Assistance Teams are on the ground in North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina and expect to travel to other areas along the East Coast, too. President Obama has already declared an emergency for North Carolina so DHS and FEMA can coordinate all disaster relief efforts. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal employees will be reimbursed at higher rates when they travel to some cities. The General Services Administration announced that 2012 lodging rates for feds traveling to D.C. will increase by about $15 — up to $226 per day during the peak travel months. GSA said per diem rates will vary by location, and by season. For example, the highest daily lodging rate is $296 dollars for travel to Vail, Colorado in December. New York City is a close second, at 295 dollars in September through December. In most cases, the new rates for high-cost cities will be $10-$20 a day more than current rates. (GSA)
  • Allegations of hiring abuses are being waged against the Housing and Urban Development’s chief human capital officer. HUD confirms it’s investigating charges of illegal hiring practices by its CHCO Janie Payne. The agency’s inspector general IG is looking at whether Payne exerted her influence so her daughter could be hired at HUD. The Department has been a model in government when it comes to reforming its hiring process -— an effort led by Payne. HUD says they see the investigation as a was to ensure everyone of the integrity of their HR system.Payne is on paid administrative during the investigation. (Federal News Radio)
  • Veterans Affairs is purchasing more of an ineffective drug for PTSD treatment, NextGov reports. VA researchers recently published a study that found the drug Risperidone was no more effective than a placebo in reducing PTSD symptoms. However, the VA awarded a new contract for more than200,000 bottles of the drug earlier this month despite the findings. The drug has not been approved by the FDA for treating PTSD. (NextGov)
  • NASA’s watchdog has said the space agency acted properly when it picked new homes for the retired space shuttles. The shuttles were awarded to museums in Los Angeles, Cape Canaveral, New York the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia. Two losing cities — Houston and Dayton — asked for an investigation. Inspector General Paul Martin’s report says there is no evidence that the decision was tainted by political influence or anything else improper. The decision was based on attendance, population, funding and the facility. (NASA)
  • The Transportation Security Administration has joined the list of agencies that want to offer early retirement and buyout packages this fall. TSA has asked the Office of Personnel Management to extend their authority to offer the early outs to eligible employees from October 2011 to September 2013. (Federal News Radio)
  • There’s new scrutiny over the Congressional Pension Plan. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said he plans to introduce a bill reducing retirement benefits for lawmakers when Congress returns next month, according to GovExec. Coffman’s bill would cut the defined benefit portion. This new proposal would not affect thrift savings plans as previous bills have. Other proposals have also called for longer service before accruing retirement benefits and pushing back the dispersal age to 65. Lawmakers currently begin accruing pension benefits after five years of service. (GovExec)
  • You don’t know what they look like. You don’t know where they are. But a network of detectors monitoring the air in thirty cities nationwide can find deadly viruses before anybody even gets sick. The system is called Biowatch. It was created by government researchers as an early warning system for bioterror attacks. It alerts authorities of a release of deadly germs. Authorities can then evacuate areas and administer pre-emptive vaccinations. The location of the detectors is secret, but researchers say the system covers eighty percent of the nation’s population. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration has acquired a site to construct the new Social Security Administration National Data Facility. GSA purchased the site in Frederick County, Md. The new building will be a LEED-Gold certified facility. GSA said it will use energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, have on-site renewable energy sources and will use of sustainable materials.GSA reviewed more than 150 sites before making its final decision. Construction begins in early 2012. The project is scheduled for completion in 2015. (Cogeneration and On-site Power Production)