Thursday morning federal headlines – Nov. 10, 2011

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 FCC and FEMA monitored live tweets and other social media during yesterday’s first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, WTOP reported. And the results are mixed. A 30-second alert tone was sent over radio and TV signals. But some people watching TV didn’t get the message. In fact, some with DirectTV heard Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” during the test, while other cable customers never saw the test at all. Others had the channel change to QVC. FEMA director Craig Fugate live tweeted encouraging people to share what they saw and heard. His agency is now collecting data on how the test went. (WTOP)
  • The White House announced the four finalists for this year’s SAVE Award, reports. The contest showcases some of the best cost-cutting ideas from federal employees across government. Some of this year’s top ideas include asking agencies to stop buying hard copies of U.S. Code books. Instead, the information in the books is now available online through LexisNexis, Westlaw and other free sources — and is updated in real time. Another idea would end printing of Oasis magazine — a 25-plus-page glossy magazine mailed to 88,000 Social Security employees across the country — and move it online instead. You can cast your vote for the best money saving idea on the White House website. (
  • Two health care plan experts charge the Obama administration with trying to dismantle the Federal Employee Health Benefits program. The administration is proposing to carve out the prescription drug benefit. It would let the Office of Personnel Management contract directly with pharmacy management services. But James Morrison, a former FEHBP director, slammed the proposal. He says its logic is seriously flawed. Morrison’s comments were echoed by Walt Francis, who writes a yearly guide to the FEHBP. He says the administration plan is a solution looking for a problem. Both spoke at a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. (Federal News Radio)
  • The trend in federal data centers and networks is fewer and simpler. But a top general says the Air Force is going in the wrong direction. It’s adding networks, data centers and applications and creating an overly-complicated tangle. Lt. Gen. Charles Davis is the new commander of the Air Force Electronic Systems Center. He oversees 200 major systems tied together, in Davis’ words, with brute force. He told an audience at the MilCom conference that his bosses have charged him with consolidating and simplifying it all. Davis said his ultimate goal is a single network covering air, land and space. (Federal News Radio)
  • A plan to fix the Postal Service has cleared a Senate committee. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bipartisan plan to cut the Postal Service’s costs so it can return to profitability. USPS is on track to lose $10 billion this year. The bill would return $7 billion from the employee retirement fund. That would let the Postal Service give early retirement to 100,000 workers. The bill would also limit workers compensation and close some postal facilities. But Saturday delivery would stay in place. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate is ready to approve legislation helping unemployed veterans find work. The bill also eliminates a plan to withhold taxes from payments to government contractors. It has support from both Democrats and Republicans. The bill would give a $9,600 tax credit to companies who hire disabled veterans who have been out of work for six months, and it provides enhanced career counseling for veterans. The House is not in session this week. It’s expected to vote favorably on the bill next week, and the President is expected to sign it. (Federal News Radio)
  • It never was a tax, and it was only 15 cents. But still, the administration is dropping a plan to support bonafide, American Christmas trees. The Agriculture Department was planning to set up an industry promotional campaign funded by a small fee on domestic trees. The plan would have been similar to 18 other promotions USDA supports. Many of them are familiar, like the Got Milk or Incredible Edible Egg campaigns. But critics said the Obama administration was out to tax Christmas trees. An Agriculture Department spokesman says the plan is on hold, even though it’s “not” a tax. (Federal News Radio)
  • Stock in CSC took a tumble after the information technology giant slashed its annual earnings forecast. CSC reduced its full-year earnings forecast, citing several business and market uncertainties. The Washington Business Journal reports the company’s bottom line was skewed by two non-cash charges: a goodwill impairment of nearly $2.3 billion, plus a $269-million charge related to September’s settlement of a contract dispute with the federal government. (Washington Business Journal)
  • Think of it as the biggest caulking job ever. Those engineers who rappelled down the Washington Monument looking for earthquake damage are back, the Associated Press reported. This time, they’ll fill any cracks they find with temporary sealant. National Park Service spokesman Carol Johnson says the engineers will return to the top of the monument today. They’ll set up ropes and equipment. The weatherization work starts Monday. It should take five days and will cost $240,000. (Associated Press)