Thursday morning federal headlines – Sept. 29

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.

  • Agencies are making headway in the fight to speed up federal hiring — but more still needs to be done, according to Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry. The Obama Administration has been pushing for an easier, speedier hiring process to fill the jobs pipeline, as more and more feds reach retirement age. Berry said agencies have made headway since the launch of the initiative in May 2010. (Federal News Radio)
  • Veterans Affairs is on track to open up its network for employees to use new smartphones and tablet devices starting Monday. But VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said only about 1,000 users will have agency-supplied devices with access to the VA systems. The agency eventually wants to create an apps store where externally and internally developed software will be made available for doctors, nurses and other employees. (Federal News Radio)
  • A Massachusetts man is under arrest, accused of plotting to blow up the Pentagon and other buildings in the U.S. Capitol region. Police say he planned to use a remote-controlled airplane filled with explosives. The 26-year-old, who has a degree in physics, was nabbed at his home after the FBI delivered material he allegedly ordered including grenades, six machine guns, and 24 pounds of C-4 explosives. (Federal News Radio)
  • The dispute over the Mark Center continues. The relocation of 6,400 workers isn’t complete yet, but the building is open. Reps. Jim Moran and Gerry Connolly along with Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, saying the Pentagon hasn’t done enough to prevent traffic congestion near the Mark Center. They asked DoD to detail the steps it plans to take to reduce the amount of traffic in that area. They also want DoD to alternate work schedules and put telecommuting in place until road improvements are complete — which are expected to take another two years.
  • A female General Services Administration employee was injured Wednesday by an exploding toilet at the GSA building in D.C. The agency said the explosion was caused by a mechanical problem in the building that was creating high air pressure in the water system. A memo made the rounds through the office asking employees not to flush until the problem was fixed. The employee suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries. (WTOP)
  • CSC has finalized its settlement with the government, securing a $277 million payment upfront, and then another $1 billion contract extension over five years, according to a company release. The settlement was announced last month, but this latest agreement seals the deal. It all began over disputed contract claims that had been pending before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. (CSC)
  • A solar storm that had been rated ‘strong-to-severe’ delivered only a glancing blow to Earth, according to Reuters. Scientists at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said the solar storm came from a monster sunspot that was so big, it could be seen from Earth with the naked eye (although it’s dangerous to look directly at the sun). Solar storms can interfere with satellites, power grids and navigation systems. But scientists said while some people in extreme northern latitudes might see heightened auroras, there won’t be damage this time. Sunspot activity is expected to peak in 2013. (Reuters)