Friday morning federal headlines – August 19

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.

  • Federal agencies must submit 2013 budget requests that trim spending by 10 percent below 2011 levels. That include at least 5 percent in discretionary spending cuts. The Office of Management and Budget is also asking agencies to cut an additional 5 percent from other areas. In a new memo, OMB said it wants agencies to submit a version of their 2013 budgets that also identify areas of potential economic growth alongside the reductions. (Federal News Radio)
  • The U.S. Postal Service is preparing to square off with the two biggest postal unions as they begin contract negotiations today. The agency is considering laying off 120,000 workers over the next three years and taking control of its health care and retirement plans as it struggles to remain solvent. Both would require Congress to change the law and overstep current collective bargaining agreements. The National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union together represent nearly half of the Postal Service’s 560,000 career employees. They have said that they are open to negotiations on all issues. Meanwhile, USPS is looking to negotiate a contract that allows for rapid downsizing and may include wage freezes similar to a deal struck with the American Postal Workers Union in May. The union’s current contract expires on Nov. 20. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission is under scrutiny for allegedly destroying records in on-going cases. A whistleblower in the agency’s enforcement division reached out to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) alleging that documents related to thousands of preliminary investigations had been destroyed. The National Archives said that they reached out to the SEC a year ago after they heard similar allegations of unauthorized disposal of documents. An upcoming Rolling Stone magazine article about the whistleblower has prompted Grassley to reach out to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro for more information. The National Archives said in a statement that it worked with the agency and was “satisfied” that the destruction had stopped.
  • A new federal website task force has received its marching orders. The 16 member “.gov reform task force” is made up of new media and policy types from large and small agencies. It was created by OMB and will work with the White House and the General Service Administration to develop a new approach for establishing and maintaining federal websites. Federal CIO Steven Van Roekel has set two deadlines for the task force. By October the group is asked to conduct an inventory and analysis of each .gov domain and develop an improved web governance plan. OMB froze all new federal websites in June and required agencies to make a plan to reduce the number of federal sites. (Federal News Radio)
  • Black scientists might be less likely than their white counterpartsto win research dollars from the National Institutes of Health. NIH has diversity programs in place but suspected they weren’t working well. It commissioned the study, published in the journal Science. It found that women have made gains over the past few decades, but minorities, especially blacks and Hispanics, still make up a small proportion of the nation’s doctors, medical school faculty and biomedical researchers. But it isn’t clear why there’s a gap, because race and ethnicity information is stripped from all applications before they’re evaluated. However, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said the situation is unacceptable. (Federal News Radio)
  • An Army acquisition official has said that no American service member or civilian has ever been deployed with defective body armor, according to A DoD inspector general’s report looked at how the Army tested body armor and what the service could do to improve it. The report covered the years 2004-2006, and found that the Army didn’t test how body armor responds to when exposed to fungus and to altitude effects. As a result, the report said it can’t be sure that the armor worked properly. But officials said they got permission to skip that part of the test so they could get the equipment to the field. Acquisition officials have maintained that no one has been sent downrange with defective equipment, and the Army said it continues to test new equipment and to pull body plates from inventory to run tests. (Defense Department)
  • Internal hacking at a processing center in Texas has landed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in hot water again, Next Gov reports. The Homeland Security Department investigation found staff had hacked management-level emails to gain unauthorized access starting in 2007. The DHS IG’s office reported that staff even gained access to grant-residency and citizenship rights. Federal agents found hackware in several computer drives on the center’s network. (Nextgov)