Thursday Morning Federal Newscast – July 29th

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.

  • Hundreds of federal workers will soon find out whether they have a new job in a new agency. The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, created by the financial overall bill the president signed last week, is about to get underway. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will discuss the transfers this afternoon with the top officials at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Reserve, and Comptroller of the Currency. Employees from seven agencies will move into the new entity, which has a budget of $500 million dollars, according to the Wall Street Journal. Transfers will take place over the next year.
  • Federal agencies have saved more than a billion dollars on human resources. That assessment is coming from the Office of Personnel Management in a report on the Human Resources Line of Business. OPM says that agencies have saved $1.3 billion dollars by consolidating their HR systems. That effort is expected to save another $200 million dollars per year after 2015.
  • Since Federal regulations require an annual Open Season to be held each year from the Monday of the second full workweek in November through the Monday of the second full workweek in December, the Office of Personnel Management is passing the word about the dates. This year, from November 8 through December 13, federal employees and retirees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will be able to select their health, dental and vision insurance plans and enroll in a Flexible Spending Account.
  • One federal hiring reform might be headed for extinction after only a few months. The Office of Personnel Management says its central registry of 13 common federal jobs has drawn almost no interest from agencies and might be canceled. Federal Times reports, agencies have hired only 71 out of the 106,000 pre-qualified candidates on the registry. OPM officials were at the White House yesterday to give an update on federal hiring reforms. OPM Director John Berry predicted earlier this year that the registry system could cut hiring times by five weeks for certain jobs.
  • Inertia, failure to adopt new technology, and resistance to commercial best practices are what cause federal agencies to waste money. That’s according to outgoing OMB chief Peter Orszag, in a farewell speech. He said the Obama administration’s cost cutting initiatives will save $20 billion dollars next year. Orszag’s last day on the job is Friday. He spoke at the Brookings Institution, a former employer. Now he heads to the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • President Obama’s nominee to be Director of the Office of National Intelligence appears headed for approval by the Senate Intelligence Committee today. Former Air Force General James R. Clapper met privately with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and is said to have favorably impressed one of his chief opponents, Missouri Senator Kit Bond. If confirmed, Clapper would be the nation’s third intelligence chief since Congress created the position in 2004.
  • A single, searchable database of all congressional earmark requests is another step closer to reality. A Senate committee has passed the Earmark Transparency Act. The legislation would set up a user-friendly, online database that’ll allow users to sort, search, and download data about earmarks. The idea is to make sure the public knows about the earmark requests before lawmakers vote on them. It would include data that’s already publicly available, but is hard to find and sort through.
  • Montana Senator Jon Tester says lawmakers who oversee the Postal Service budget will block a proposal to reduce mail deliveries to five days a week. Postal officials proposed cutting Saturday delivery to save money. But Tester says eliminating Saturday deliveries would be a hardship on rural residents, while only delivering modest savings. Post office closures, rate hikes and cuts in worker health pre-payments are also under consideration. USPS will lose around seven billion dollars this year.
  • Chemical facilities in the U.S. could be used as – in one expert’s words – pre-positioned weapons of mass destruction. Legislation to protect these chemical facilities has moved out of committee and it on its way to the Senate floor. The bill extends the current program protecting chemical facilities from terrorist attack for three more years. But you might see revisions before it passes. Senator Lieberman says he’d like to see the bill made stronger, by including security at waste water and other plants.
  • The federal government has approved a HUBzone firm at the Alamo in Texas. The problem is that company doesn’t exist. It’s part of an undercover operation from the Government Accountability Office. Auditors were able to get three phony firms approved under the Historically Underutilized Business Zone program. The Small Business Administration runs that program. They say that because of the investigation, HUBzone applicants will need to submit more documentation. Meanwhile, we have learned the program is getting a new leader: law professor Grande Lum. It’s not clear, though, whether it’s because of this specific finding by GAO.
  • The FBI director is defending his bureau following accusations that agents cheated on a test about surveillance. Robert Mueller tells Congress that the FBI understands the rules and is following them. The Justice Department inspector general is investigating whether hundreds of agents cheated on the test. Some reportedly took the open-book exam together. And others finished it unusually quickly. If wrongdoing is found, the agents could face discipline, including termination.
  • A Government Accountability Office report to be released later today is expected to show it’s remarkably easy to use fraudulent documents to obtain a genuine U.S. passport. The GAO investigation will be the subject of a Senate Judiciary terrorism subcommittee hearing later this afternoon.

More news links

Social Security Administration’s long reviews costly (WashingtonTimes)


Veterans Agency to Probe Insurer Handling Soldiers’ Benefits (Bloomberg via BusinessWeek)

OMB nominee got $900,000 after Citigroup bailout (WashingtonTimes)

FBI director defends bureau over test cheating

WikiLeaks fallout: Tighter access to US secrets?

What your phone app doesn’t say: It’s watching

Before the CIA, there was the Pond


Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

** Gov 2.0 — the Government Accountability Office says there need to be some rules around the use of Web 2.0 in agencies. We’ll talk to them about their recommendations.

** And there has been an arrest in one a prolific Internet botnet. We’ll get details about how that arrest came about.

Join Chris after Washington Nationals baseball on 1500 AM or on your computer.