Wednesday morning federal headlines – Sept. 28

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.

  • White House budget leaders told agency managers to take budget cuts into their own hands. Jack Lew, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the administration doesn’t want OMB to dictate the details of how agencies will meet budget-cutting targets. Lew, speaking at a Partnership for Public Service event, said instead OMB budget policy will be more guidance than directive. Agencies sent their 2013 requests to OMB this month. While the submissions look as if agencies understand the fiscal restraints they are under, Lew said many still haven’t cut enough. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal workers will pay an average of 3.8 percent more for health insurance next year. But benefits won’t change. The Office of Personnel Management reports the expected increases in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will be the smallest since 2008. Last year, premiums rose more than 7 percent. Those with self coverage will pay $2.30 more per pay period in 2012. Family coverage will cost $6.18. By contrast, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported an average of 9 percent increases in premiums paid by private sector workers. (Federal News Radio)
  • Two companies have dropped their protest of an Interior Department contract award for cloud computing. Lawyers for Google and Onix Networking said Interior’s agreement to re-do the acquisition prompted them to wait for a possible new award. However, Justice Department lawyers notified the court that Interior has not agreed to start over, even as DOJ awyers support the move by Google and Onix to drop the protest. Neither side responded to Federal News Radio requests for comment. Judge Susan Braden has not yet ruled on the motion to dismiss. The protests followed Interior’s award of a contract to Softchoice last October for cloud e-mail service. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Do Not Pay List is coming. The Kansas City Business Journal reports that the Treasury Department is a few months away from launching the list, which will allow agencies to confirm which companies are eligible to receive federal dollars before they’re awarded a contract. The Do Not Pay List is supposed to reduce improper payments to dead people, debarred contractors, individuals found guilty of tax fraud and criminals. It doesn’t provide agencies with new data but consolidates existing information from several databases.
  • NASA legend Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, will retire Friday. Over a long career, he helped send missions to the Moon and Mars. And he oversaw the Hubble space telescope program as chief scientist for nearly 20 years. Chuck Gay will become acting associate administrator. In announcing the retirement, NASA officials credited Weiler with what they called “unprecedented advances” in Earth science and extensive exploration of the solar system. NASA has also lost one of its founders. Paul Dembling, co-author of the legislation that founded NASA, has died at 91. He had been general counsel to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the forerunner of NASA until 1958. (NASA)
  • The Postal Service is getting a little more time to pay its bills. The continuing resolution passed by the Senate includes a measure to give the Postal Service until Nov. 18 to pay a $5.5 billion debt to the Treasury. The House is expected to pass the funding bill on Monday. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said the measure gives USPS some much needed breathing room to continue fighting to pass reforms to solve its financial crisis. The Postal Service is expected to post record losses when the fiscal year ends Friday. (Federal News Radio)
  • A Federal performance task force is pitching its recommendations to federal managers. The task force, sponsored by the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations, is made up of agency human resources officials, union representatives and employee association leaders. The group is making five recommendations, including requiring agencies to define their priorities and expectations for employees. Another would would require managers to review workers’ performance four times a year. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Washington Business Journal reports the General Services Administration has a short-term lease deal for a Health and Human Services agency in Rockville as Congress continues to debate spending cuts on the Hill. And it could become the standard for real-estate business with the federal government. The deal says Indian Health Service will remain in Rockville for five more years, but the full-building lease lets the agency opt out after three. Similar short-term leases are happening across the country as federal agencies are downsizing or consolidating their space. (Washington Business Journal)

    They found it! That dead NASA satellite that fell back to Earth on Saturday landed in part of the South Pacific Ocean. NASA officials said new Air Force calculations show the six-ton, 20-year-old satellite entered Earth’s atmosphere generally above American Samoa. But falling debris as it broke apart didn’t start hitting the water for another 300 miles to the northeast, southwest of Christmas Island. Scientists who track space junk couldn’t be happier with the result. But other satellites will continue to fall. Late in October, or early in November, a German astronomy satellite will fall. (NASA)

  • How’s this for the most exclusive club in the United States: Four people each get 300 marijuana cigarettes every month. Supplied by the federal government. The four are patients in the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program, according to the Associated Press. The program is run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers grow the pot at the University of Mississippi and roll the joints in North Carolina. Don’t bother trying to get in on the bonanza. It’s closed to any new entrants. Those last four patients are grandfathered in. (Federal News Radio)