Monday morning federal headlines – Jan. 16, 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.

  • The Internal Revenue Service is offering buyouts to up to 400 workers. The agency tells employees they’ll have until March to decide whether to accept early retirement. For those receiving the offer, the maximum buyout is $25,000. Then the employees will be eligible to retire under the CSRS program. The last IRS buyouts occurred in November. They were confined to analysts, public affairs and those in outreach jobs. (Federal News Radio)
  • There’s a new cyber chief at the Department of Homeland Security. John Streufert joins this week as national cybersecurity division director. He’ll be in charge of implementing a cyber-risk management program for critical infrastructure. He was the chief information security officer at the State Department, where he became known as a leader in the use of continuous monitoring of federal systems. Streufert replaces Nicole Dean, who is heading to the defense technology company Raytheon. (Federal News Radio)
  • Two pro-business groups are challenging President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. The National Federation of Independent Business and the National Right to Work Foundation made their case Friday to a federal district court in Washington. They say it’s unconstitutional for the president to bypass the Senate in appointing three new members to the five-person board. It’s part of an ongoing lawsuit against the labor board for a decision requiring businesses to put up posters telling workers about their right to form a union and the first legal challenge to the appointments. (Federal News Radio)
  • Army Gen. Martin Dempsey predicts women are getting closer to serving in combat. The Joint Chiefs chairman told young cadets that it would change on his watch, and if not, then certainly on theirs. He says it’s a two-step process. The military has to remove restrictions on intelligence analysts serving in battle, which he called completely ludicrous. Then it has to lift a ban on women serving in ground combat unit, like tanks, artillery and infantry. That, he says, will be harder because of Congressional interest. But, he says, “I think we’ll be better for it.” He spoke to ROTC cadets in North Carolina Friday. (Defense Department)
  • Republicans have been calling for smaller government, but they’re wishy-washy on President Obama’s plan to merge six agencies. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) says “there is no shortage of agencies and programs ripe for streamlining.” But she worries that the plan to consolidate the Small Business Administration into a larger Commerce Department could make it harder for small businesses to get help. Collins is the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. On the House side, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says he’s “ready to work” with the president. Congress will have to reinstate the president’s power to consolidate agencies for any merger to happen. It abolished that power in 1984. (House and Senate)
  • Congress returns to town this week, and the bickering is likely to look pretty much like it did last year. High on the list of debates is how to extend a payroll tax holiday. It expires at the end of February, two months after it started. At issue is how to pay for it. Republicans would cut federal employee benefits. President Barack Obama would raise fees for airline passengers and eliminate Saturday mail delivery. Democrats in Congress would charge employers higher premiums for federal pension guarantees. Also on the docket is whether and how to extend federal unemployment benefits, which also expire Feb. 29. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Transportation Security Administration joins agencies using buyouts and early retirements to reshape their workforces. Eligible TSA employees can apply until April 30. An agency spokesman says, early retirement won’t be an option for certain mission-critical employees. Those include transportation security officers, air marshals and some intelligence staff members. An earlier round of buyouts ended Dec. 31. The agency would not say how many workers will be affected. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Federal CIO has put a government-wide mobile computing strategy on the fast track. Steven VanRoekel says he’ll finish the final plan by April. By mid-year, he says consolidated contracts for phones and data plans will be in place. And within 12 months, VanRoekel expects to issue a strategy for mobile application development. The mobile project kicked off last week with an online forum to get ideas from government and industry. (Federal News Radio)