Monday morning federal headlines – August 15

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.

  • The Air Force announced a 90-day hiring freeze last week, with the goal of bringing civilian employment to fiscal 2010 levels, the service said. And although the Air Force said it anticipates expanding its workforce, it wants to trim future growth by 4,000 positions. Some employees can expect buyouts and Voluntary Early Separation offers. Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office also plans to trim staff, after asking the Office of Personnel Management for authority to offer buyouts to 56 employees. Affected workers will have until Sept. 6 to decide whether they want to leave the agency by the end of next month. Senior Executive Service members and member of the IG staff won’t be eligible. (Federal News Radio)
  • DOD has a deadbeat problem — it’s carrying $209 million in outstanding debt from contractors, some of which dates back to 2005. A group of senators plan to lean on the department to boost collections, after writing to Teresa McKay, the director of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
  • The Transportation Department has issued new fatigue rules for railroad workers, spelling out limits for how long passenger rail workers can be continuously on the job. The DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration said the rules will improve passenger safety. However, for the first time, DOT will have different rules for passenger and freight railroads. A Transportation spokesman said the new rules stem from an effort to apply “fatigue science” to employee work schedules — meaning railroads must identify fatigue risks using what DOT calls approved, scientifically validated and calibrated bio-mathematical models. The rules go into effect Oct. 15. (Transportation Department)
  • NASA recently announced several streamlining maneuvers. It has combined two directorates — Space Operations and Explorations Systems — into one. The new division will be known as the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA said. HEO, which will be headed by Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier, will focus on both International Space Station operations and human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Plus, it will oversee construction of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and development of a new heavy lift rocket. (NASA)
  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — which is in charge of enforcing banking laws, regulating financial institutions and protecting depositors — has its work cut out for it, the Government Accountability Office found in a recent report. GAO looked into the effectiveness of FDIC’s controls in protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of its financial systems and information. Auditors said the FDIC needs to require stronger passwords to access its databases and better encrypt financial information transmitted over and stored on its network. (GAO)
  • As DoD continues to streamline its IT operations, it says it will close another 44 data centers by the end of the fiscal year, Federal Computer Week reports. The move is part of the Defense Department’s plans to meet efficiency requirements. Meanwhile, DoD Chief Information Officer Teri Takai said that the Pentagon has already closed eight data centers. Takai said the data center closures dovetail with plans for enterprise services, and developing a cloud strategy. (Federal Computer Week)
  • Tighter budgets are motivating some agencies to delay IT projects and reevaluate their IT investments, Federal Times reports. Among the agencies taking hits is the Social Security Administration, which is delaying and canceling some of its planned IT projects. The Navy and Marine Corps IT budgets will be cut by 25 percent, while USAID is in-sourcing its IT needs to reduce the cost of fielding new technology services. Outgoing federal CIO Vivek Kundra has said agencies need to get rid of projects that don’t deliver within six months. (Federal Times)
  • Quick Read codes — the boxy codes that can be “read” by smartphones — are just about everywhere these days: Magazine ads, on the sides of buses and even on prescriptions. But who actually uses them? The Washington Business Journal, citing ComScore statistics, reports 14 million Americans used their mobile phones to scan QR codes in June. That’s more than 6 percent of the people with mobile phones. Users are more likely to use the codes found in newspapers, magazines and product packaging. (Washington Business Journal)