Monday Morning Federal Newscast- Dec. 27

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 Merit Systems Protection Board is backing appeal rights for some federal workers. The ruling protects employees who hold sensitive positions that don’t require access to classified information. It prevents them from being demoted if they do not qualify for security clearance. A release from the American Federation of Government Employees says MSPB found that the Defense Department tried to deny thousands of federal employees their lawful rights to contest wrongful terminations and other adverse actions and ruled that those workers should have the right to appeal.
  • Veterans Affairs CIO Roger Baker says a cut to the agency’s IT budget is the result of spending millions of dollars less than anticipated on IT development last year. The VA saved $250 million in 2010 by delaying and suspending nearly 200 troubled IT projects through its Projects Management Accountability System. Federal Computer Week reports the savings are part of $700 million dollars in unspent IT funding that Baker says he was hoping to spend this coming year. The House and Senate both approved a $3.16 billion budget for the VA’s IT in 2011. That’s $145 million less than last year.
  • Worsening traffic jams around the Mark Center in Alexandria appear inevitable. The 2011 defense authorization bill leaves out a provision that would have limited parking at the new Defense Department administration complex. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said he worries about congestion caused by 6,400 employees who will be working at the Mark Center thanks to a base closure and realignment change (BRAC). Moran wanted no more than one thousand parking spaces. But now the Mark Center will have nearly 3,500 spaces. The authorization bill does require the Army to come up with ways to improve intersections around the Mark Center. The center is scheduled to open in September.
  • Champions of greater whistleblower protections were disappointed by the 111th Congress. A version of enhanced whistleblower protections actually passed both the House and Senate. The Washington Post reports an anonymous hold in the Senate blocked a final version during the lame duck session. At issue was removal of a provision extending protections to intelligence workers. Some lawmakers had already sent out press releases trumpeting passage of the landmark legislation.
  • The Career Intern Program will be phased out in March. In its place, the Obama administration will order the creation of a new internship program and a program to hire recent graduates. Both will have stricter rules for fast hiring. The Washington Post reports a presidential order will come this week ending Career Interns, a program started during the Clinton Administration. Federal employee unions and veterans groups have argued that agencies were using the Career Intern Program too freely, avoiding competitive hiring and veterans preferences.
  • President Obama will renominate Peter Diamond to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. The M.I.T. economist was nominated earlier, but the Senate adjourned without voting on his bid. The Wall Street Journal reports, since the president first nominated him, Diamond shared in a Nobel Prize for research on unemployment. Senate Republicans have objected to Diamond, citing a lack of qualifications. Two other Obama nominees won confirmation to the seven-member Fed board. Janet Yellen and Sarah Raskin got Senate thumbs-up earlier this year.
  • Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued an order he says restores balance and clarity to the management of public lands. Secretarial Order 3310 directs the Bureau of Land Management to use public input to help designate areas that seem like wilderness. The BLM can then manage them under its wild lands jurisdiction. The order has already run into Congressional opposition. Representative Doc Hastings is a Republican about to become chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. He says Salazar is over-reaching, and only Congress has the authority to designate protected lands.
  • At least one state is already arguing with the Census Bureau’s 2010 population count. California officials charge, the Bureau missed 1.5 million of California residents. The Washington Post reports, the discrepancy could cost the state billions of dollars in federal aid, and prevent its Congressional delegation from growing by one seat. The Census state-by-state numbers came out Tuesday. They said California has 37.3 million residents. But the state’s Finance Department claims California has just under 39 million people.