Friday morning federal headlines – Oct. 14

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 will accept commercial IDs from citizens who interact with the government online. That means agencies must configure their systems to recognize IDs from providers such as Google and PayPal. CIO Steven VanRoekel has given agencies 90 days to get ready as part of a strategy to align federal cyber practices with those of the private sector. VanRoekel said agencies should start with low-level transactions such as logging in to comment on a blog. Transactions involving personal information or money will come later. (Federal News Radio)
  • Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is pushing his department to clean up its finances, setting a 2014 deadline to have one part of the Pentagon’s financial statements ready for a clean audit. The department is already under a 2017 deadline from Congress. The part Panetta wants sooner is called the Statement of Budgetary Resources, or SBR. It gives details of the Pentagon’s current cash situation. The 2017 deadline for the rest of the books stays in place. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Postal Service and lawmakers have been operating under the theory that if they could just return the $75 billion dollar overpayment from the federal pension fund, their problems would be solved. But the Government Accountability Office says — not so fast. GAO auditors said that the move wouldn’t solve any long-term problems and would force the government to pay millions more for worker pensions. The report says that transferring billions of dollars away from the fund would leave the government on the hook for between $55 and $85 billion dollars and could lead to pressure to cut pension benefits for federal workers. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House Ways and Means Committee voted yesterday to repeal a provision requiring the government to withhold 3 percent of contractor payments. The 2006 law had drawn the ire of nearly everyone — government, industry and lawmakers of both parties. The committee overwhelmingly passed the repeal in a voice vote. The chairman of the committee Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said the repeal would help reduce uncertainty for companies doing business with the government. The Hill reports a full House vote will likely come by the end of the month.
  • Brass at the Homeland Security Department want to limit what sort of outside work employees can do. A new proposed rule, aimed at preventing conflicts of interest, would require employees to get permission before consulting, teaching or public speaking. For instance, if you work at Customs and Border Protection, you would not be allowed to work in agriculture or immigration. FEMA employees could not do work for the agency’s contractors. The rule would exempt work for charities, churches and other non-profits. (Federal News Radio)
  • Mistakes by air traffic controllers are on the up. The Government Accountability Office found misdirection that causes planes to fly too closely together while approaching the airport has increased sharply. So have the number of runway incursions, which include everything from planes taking a wrong turn on the tarmac to having unauthorized planes, vehicles, or people on the runway. The Federal Aviation Administration attributed the increases to better error reporting. But transportation officials said they take the report seriously and will work to reduce the number of incidents. (Federal News Radio)
  • If the National Cathedral looks a little off, that’s because it’s missing a pinnacle. Workers used a crane to remove two tons of stonework from the top of the cathedral’s 330-foot central tower. The stone topper was damaged in the earthquake that hit Washington in August. In fact, all four pinnacles on the tower were damaged. All the broken parts must come down for repair and so the building can reopen. The Cathedral took 83 years to build and was completed in 1990. All of its stonework is hand-carved. (Federal News Radio)
  • Astronomy buffs can get a close-up look at a full-size replica of the James Webb Space Telescope in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, which will be on display outside the Maryland Science Center through Oct. 26. The telescope is expected to replace the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, but will head much farther out into space. Launch is planned for 2018. (NASA)