Monday morning federal headlines – August 8

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 downgrading of U.S. debt to AA+ from AAA touched off a weekend of political backbiting. Democrats and Republicans blamed one another for conditions leading to the downgrade. Standard and Poor’s stands by its rating despite angry criticism from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and S&P even said another downgrade is possible. Meanwhile, Geithner has agreed to stay on the job through the end of President Barack Obama’s term. When Congress returns after Labor Day, it will take up federal spending for 2012. With all entitlement spending off limits, agency operational budgets will likely take all of the hits.(Federal News Radio)
  • President Obama has signed a measure extending the FAA’s authorization. The new law funds the FAA through mid-September. The stop-gap measure ends the two-week partial shutdown at the aviation administration that saw 4,000 employees furloughed and construction projects nationwide halted. FAA administrator Randy Babbitt told Federal News Radio that employees should be able to return to work Monday and construction projects should also resume. (Federal News Radio)
  • General Services Administration employees can still park for free in D.C.-area offices. Union objections have forced GSA to delay plans to impose parking fees. Those fees were to start Aug. 1. However, Federal Times reports, the National Federal of Federal Employees disputed the parking charges, because depending on the location, the fees could have cost employees anywhere from $1,800 dollars a year to more than $6,000, the union said. John Hanley, president of the Council of GSA Locals, confirmed the policy was put on hold, while GSA said it’s now working on new rules. The impetus for the rule change was discourage driving to work as a way to reduce the agency’s carbon footprint. (Federal Times)
  • The Army plans to cut nearly 9,000 civilian jobs by October of next year, Federal Times reports. Army Secretary John McHugh had ordered Army leaders to start cutting staffing to help meet former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ efficiency initiatives. The Army will save $834 million dollars in operations and maintenance funding as part of those cuts, which amount to about 3 percent of the Army’s more than 290,000 civilian employees.McHugh said the Army cannot turn to contractors to replace the civilian employees. (Federal Times)
  • Federal taxes on airline tickets are coming back, the Associated Press reports. People who traveled during the partial shutdown of Federal Aviation Administration furlough, will not get that money back. And, the Internal Revenue Service said it will collect taxes retroactively. However, the IRS said it will give travelers a break — people who bought tickets during the partial shutdown won’t have to pay extra to Uncle Sam, but airlines will. In just two weeks the airline industry made an extra $400 million by hiking its prices by the amount of the federal tax. (AP)
  • There’s been a string of malicious software aimed at smartphones recently, the Associated Press reports. Phones that run Google’s Android operating system as well as Apple’s iPhone system are both at risk. Security experts said the attacks on smartphones are growing fast because increasingly people use them to do everything from email, shopping, keep track of contacts and store photos. (AP)
  • The cost of leasing office space for the government is often higher than the cost of owning office space, The Washington Business Journal reports. Under the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, the total acquisition price must be recorded in the budget for the year the purchase takes place. But for leases, only the annual payments are recorded in that year’s budget. From the budget, it looks cheaper to lease when, in fact, it’s often cheaper to own. The Government Accountability Office told a Senate subcommittee that it has recommended that the Office of Management and Budget change its scoring process. But it still hasn’t happened. (Washington Business Journal)
  • IBM has protested a multibillion-dollar Veterans Affairs IT contract. In July, VA awarded contracts to 14 vendors — not including IBM — under its Transformation 21 Total Technology program, which has a ceiling of $12 billion over five years. Neither IBM nor VA would comment on the protest. The Government Accountability Office has until November 10 to decide on the merits of IBM’s protest. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal agents and kids with purple hair and capes are hob-nobbing in Vegas. But it’s all legit — U.S. Cyber Command, Homeland Security, the FBI and NASA are all seeking new employees with top-notch cybersecurity skills. This year’s Defcon convention even featured a panel called, Meet the Federal Agent 2.0, The New York Times reports. Feds have been plying Defcon and similar conventions for years, but now their presence is more open. A NASA investigator said federal work should appeal to geeks who want to catch bad buys. (The New York Times)
  • The Postal Service said it is out of cash and will default on payments to the government next month barring Congressional intervention. USPS reported $3.1 billion in losses in the third quarter, and, so far this year, the Postal Service has lost $5.7 billion. It has already announced that it will no longer make contributions to the over-funded Federal Employees Retirement System. USPS has asked Congress for greater authority to make changes to its business model. (Federal News Radio)