Monday morning federal headlines – Sept. 26

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 threat of an Oct. 1 government shutdown is closer. The Senate on Friday rejected a continuing resolution passed by the House. Senators will take up the matter again this afternoon. The two houses differ over a tiny portion of the more than $1 trillion bill. At issue is the level of spending for disaster relief and whether that $3.7 billion is offset by cuts in subsidies to electric cars. Both versions would keep the government open for six weeks following the end of the fiscal year, which occurs this Friday night at midnight.The House is in recess for the week. (Federal News Radio)
  • Homeland Security officials say they are committed to consolidating the department’s headquarters in Southeast Washington, D.C. But Congress is reluctant to fund the building program. Don Bathurst, the DHS chief administration officer told lawmakers, finishing the new headquarters would bring operational efficiency by bringing together people scattered in 50 buildings across the area. The House zeroed out funding for DHS headquarters in its 2012 appropriations bill. The Senate version gives DHS a third of the money it asked for. (Federal News Radio)
  • House and Senate lawmakers want to turn federal hiring forms into law. Sens. Daniel Akaka and John Sarbanes have introduced a bill that would legally require an average of 80 days to hire new employees. It would back up OPM’s drive to use resumes and cover letters for initial screening of applications. The bill also would require agencies to develop strategic workforce plans focused on hiring, recruitment, and skills deficiencies. (Federal News Radio)
  • Health IT may be harder to pull off than anyone thought. The United Kingdom is scrapping its $17 billion information technology program for its state-run health service. The Wall Street Journal reports that officials say some of the money has been wasted and that the program isn’t fit to provide the services they need. The program was hailed as one of the biggest IT projects ever attempted and Computer Sciences Corp was one of the contractors. Other countries — including the U.S. — were watching the U.K. project to see how it would digitize and link together patient records and the entire National Health Service. Officials with Britain’s Department of Health say future IT decisions will be made on a regional level, with more suppliers competing for contracts. (Wall Street Journal)
  • A new OPM survey finds 67 percent of federal employees still don’t know whether or not they are eligible for telework. This after the Office of Personnel Management had ordered that all feds be told their telework status by June of this year. The 2011 Employee Viewpoint Survey also finds just two percent of feds telework three days a week or more. More than 25 percent say they don’t telework because they weren’t given permission to do so, even though they have the types of jobs where they could telework. Another 35 percent don’t telework because they have to be physically present at their worksites. Another 12 percent don’t telework because they don’t want to. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Personnel Management has created a new task force to work on stopping improper payments to dead annuitants. This after an Inspector General’s report found the agency paid $600 million in retirement benefits to dead people. OPM Director John Berry told Federal News Radio he plans to check with the task force on a weekly basis. The agency has already recovered almost $490 million of the money in question, and is working on the rest. OPM says it has implemented 10 of 14 recommendations made by the inspector general. The leaves just four more to tackle, including tracking undeliverable IRS forms and modernizing their retirement system technology. (Federal News Radio)
  • It fell. The six-ton satellite that NASA has been watching so closely finally fell to Earth on Saturday. But scientists don’t know where, Reuters reports. They *think* the ton of space debris ended up in the Pacific Ocean. But NASA scientists aren’t sure exactly when it entered the atmosphere, nor where it landed. They’ve narrowed the time between 11:23 p.m. Friday and 1:09 a.m. Saturday. But because they don’t know exactly when it reentered Earth’s atmosphere, they can’t calculate where it landed. They say they might never know. (Reuters)
  • Lawmakers in both chambers have introduced legislation that aims to reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent by 2015 through attrition. The House version has been introduced by South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney. The Senate version, by Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson. They estimate savings of 139 billion over 10 years. Agencies would only be able to hire one new person for every three that retired or quit through 2014.

    Now you can take NASA with you wherever you go. Or at least wherever you take your cell phone. NASA is offering a collection of space-related ringtones, including snippets of chatter between mission control and astronauts. One ringtone is the sound of the space shuttle’s landing gear. You can even use beeps from Sputnik. And, of course, the famous, “One small step for man” comment. (NASA)