Friday morning federal headlines – Jan. 6, 2012

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive host Tom Temin discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Postal reform bills could see more action, more quickly when lawmakers return to work later this month. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he’s eager to move the Senate’s version of postal reform early in the new session. NextGov reports, the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee is releasing its report on its version of the postal bill, within days of returning to work. Both the House and Senate bills contain provisions that give the Postal Service greater flexibility and power to modify employees’ pay and benefits. USPS posted a $5 billion loss for fiscal 2011. The agency is eager for a legislative fix to its financial problems. (NextGov)
  • A new app could help doctors and regulators track the side effects of drugs during emergencies. The Food and Drug administration is fielding the idea. They’re calling it the Real-Time Application for Portable Interactive Devices, or RAPID. It would collect videos and images of patient reactions, like skin lesions, NextGov reports. Doctors can also dictate medical histories, and the app will also be able to track trends geographically by using GPS. FDA says it wants to test the app first with a small number of smartphone using clinicians and later move to tablets. They hope the technology will help them map clusters of incidents in real time. (NextGov)
  • An IRS effort to boost audits of high income earners is producing results. Last year, IRS audited one in eight people earning at least $1 million. That’s 12 percent. Only 5 percent to 7 percent of millionaires were audited in years leading up to 2010. The rate of audits fell for people earning less than $200,000. Last year, only one in 100 of them was audited. An IRS spokeswoman says the rising audit rate for high earners is simply because that’s where the money is. She says it’s not connected to President Obama’s repeated calls for higher tax rates on millionaires and billionaires. (Federal News Radio)
  • Researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration think General Motors has found an answer to the problem of burning Chevrolet Volts. Test crashes have shown that the hybrid electric car batteries can rupture, leak coolant and start to burn. In a new test, evaluators crashed a Volt equipped with a steel cage around the battery pack. General Motors provided the cage. It prevented a rupture and coolant leak. But traffic safety evaluators want to monitor the test car for a few more weeks before coming to final conclusions. (NHTSA)
  • Are they legitimate financial instruments or simply gambling? That’s a question the Commodity Futures Trading Commission must decide. The CTFC is looking into proposed derivative contracts from the North American Derivatives Exchange. The Exchange wants to sell contracts based on who wins the next national election and whether Democrats or Republicans control Congress. The Commission has asked Nadex to suspend trading in the political events contracts while it decides if they’re kosher. (CTFC)
  • The Army chose option number three for its regional data centers. After deliberating on how to create a network of data centers across the country for more than three years, the Army decided to buy private cloud services from vendors. This was instead of doing it themselves or buying from other DoD agencies. The service hired eight contractors to provide enterprise cloud computing services. The $250 million contract is for five years. Under the deal, Criterion Systems, General Dynamics One Source, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services, HP Enterprise, IBM, Lockheed Martin, MicroTech and Northrop Grumman will compete for task orders. (
  • Members of the Senior Executive Service are getting a new appraisal system. The Washington Post reports, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management will issue a memo today detailing a more uniform framework to communicate expectations and evaluate the performance of SES members. The goal of the new system is to provide agencies with a standard approach to managing performance of executives. It also will help senior managers move into different assignments across government as needed. The President’s Management Council expected the memo to be done in September. It has been a priority of the Obama administration to redesign the SES performance appraisal system and invigorate the 7,000 person-cadre of senior managers.The administration also has been trying to improve SES onboarding. (The Washington Post)
  • The General Services Administration wants more proof its vendors are securing the agency’s systems, and they are not just stopping at the prime contractor level. GSA issued a final rule today requiring both prime and subcontractors to submit an IT security plan detailing how they are meeting federal cyber laws and regulations. Along with the plan, GSA wants to inspect contractors and subcontractors’ facilities, databases, devices and IT systems used in the performance of the contract to ensure the agency’s data is secure. GSA plans to insert new clauses into contracts for any IT supplies, services or systems in which the contractor will have access to government information that supports GSA’s mission. (GPO)
  • A new global health strategy is broadening the mission of the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS issued the plan yesterday. It describes three goals: to protect and promote the health and well-being of Americans through global health action; to provide leadership and technical expertise in science, policy, programs and practice to improve global health; and to work in concert with interagency partners to advance U.S. interests in international diplomacy, development and security through global health action. HHS says while its mission is to protect the health and well being of Americans, it can’t overlook the increasing interconnectedness of the world and how that has demanded that HHS expand its global presence. (