Friday Morning Federal Newscast – August 6th

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 Postal Service ends the third quarter with a $3.5 billion dollar loss. That’s more than a billion dollars worse than at the same time last fiscal year. Postal officials say mail volume continues to fall and operating expenses have risen. Chief Financial Officer Joseph Corbett says that if the trend continues, his agency will not be able to cover its 2011 obligations.
  • Military service members could be owed some extra money. Last year Congress approved a $500 dollar retroactive bonus for every month service members were forced to stay in beyond their enlistment term. It’s a controversial practice known as “stop-loss”. The Pentagon says only 30,000 of those eligible have claimed the pay. That leaves an estimated 100,000 retired military men and women who can still apply for the money. The deadline to claim the pay is October 21.
  • In what may become a “don’t peek, don’t leak” policy, the Washington Times reports all U.S. military personnel are being barred from visiting WikiLeaks while demanding website return all the classified Afghan war documents in its possession. The military is hoping to prevent online publication of the documents not already posted by WikiLeaks. Last month, WikiLeaks posted nearly 80,000 documents, all battlefield reports from Afghanistan.
  • James Clapper has won Senate confirmation to become the director of the Office of National Intelligence. The former three-star Air Force general will be the fourth person to hold the ODNI job. Although his confirmation process was rocky, the Senate approved Clapper unanimously by voice vote yesterday, just before departing for its August recess. President Barack Obama’s fired Clapper’s predecessor, Dennis Blair, in May.
  • The Senate has also confirmed General James Mattis, a tough-talking Marine, as head of Central Command. Mattis replaces Army General David Petraeus, who recently took over as top commander in Afghanistan. Mattis was part of the command team that lead the invastion of Iraq in 2003. During a confirmation hearing last week, Mattis said victory in Afghanistan was possible. He expressed optimism that troops would start coming home in a year. Central Command also oversees military operations in Pakistan, Iraq and Iran.
  • Heads up federal contractors: You’ll need to start tracking and reducing greenhouse gas emissions if you want to keep government business. The head of GSA’s sustainability office, Emile Monette, says that future solicitations will place more emphasis on the environment. According to Federal Times, GSA plans to review how vendors measure their emissions.
  • The Small Business Administration is looking to make it easier for companies to enter the federal market. The agency is teaming up with trade group CompTIA — a nonprofit that provides education and training to people in the IT industry. Under the two-year alliance, the SBA will provide speakers to participate in training sessions, seminars and conferences according to Washington Technology. The goal of the initiative is to support the development of small-businesses in critical business sectors.
  • Medicare’s finances have been improved so much by health care reform that its funds will last 12 years longer than expected. That’s according to the latest annual report of Medicare’s trustees — all of whom are members of President Obama’s cabinet. Their finding was disputed by Medicare’s non-partisan chief actuary, the Washington Post reports. Richard Foster, the top career Medicare economist at Health and Human Services, said the report’s predictions do not represent a reasonable expectation of its finances. The trustees were less optimistic about Social Security, which they said has been hurt by the weak economy.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has obligated the last of its $1.8 billion stimulus dollars. The department says that money has funded more than 1,500 contracts with about 700 contractors. VA used some of it to upgrade technology and medical facilities. Other spending went to improving national cemeteries. VA says that projects were funded at more than 1,200 sites in all 50 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.
  • The gavel is being passed at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Bruce Kasold will be the new chief judge, as the current chief judge, William Greene, steps down. The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims reviews claims denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
  • Northrop Grumman is shuttering its maintenance and modification center in Hagerstown, Maryland. The Washington Business Journal reports this is the second round of cuts at the facility. 95 workers were laid off in May. The company is not saying exactly how many are affected this time, but the layoffs will happen August 26th. Work at the facility will close after September when Northrop Grumman makes its final delivery of P-3 aircraft to the Navy.
  • Argon ST is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing, and a new division of Boeing Network and Space Systems. The St. Louis Business Journal reports that Boeing’s acquisition of Fairfax, Virginia based Argon — a $775 million dollar deal — is now complete. Customers include the Navy, Air Force, and Homeland Security.
  • The Internal Revenue Service is making a change for the 2011 tax season. The IRS will no longer provide tax preparers and lenders with a so-called debt indicator code. That’s the code which tells the IRS whether your refund could be withheld to pay back taxes or other government debts. Lenders used the code to figure out whether to offer short-term, high-interest refund-anticipation loans. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman says that was never the intention of the debt indicator code, which was introduced in the early 1990s to encourage more people to file electronically.
  • And finally, once again, goat news makes federal headlines. A Binghamton, New York woman was selling goats to make money while collecting federal workers’ compensation as a U.S. Postal Service employee. Now, Susan McCord Tansosch, reports the Press & Sun-Bulletin, will have to pay back the $60,000 in benefits she collected because she didn’t report her income from selling the goats.

More news links

Senate approves $600 million for border security


NYC lawsuit: Census Bureau discriminated in hiring

US Energy Dept. alters FutureGen plans in Illinois

Crayola going greener with 15-acre Pa. solar farm

NASA: Space station repair now set for Saturday

Air Force tanker bid thrown out for arriving 5 minutes late (CNN)


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