Monday morning federal headlines – Jan. 23, 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.

  • Federal employees are told to stay off the roads until 9 this morning because of ice. Federal offices don’t open to the public until 11 a.m. The Office of Personnel Management says those arriving late will be granted excused absence. You can also use unscheduled leave or telework. But teleworkers have to put in a whole day. Non-emergency employees must notify their supervisors first. Emergency employees, you’re expected to report to their worksites on time unless you hear otherwise. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new push to improve performance could also change how your agency chooses chief operating officers. The Association of Government Accountants is pushing agencies to consider only people with deep interest in data-driven performance improvement. It also recommends that agencies make the performance improvement officer a full-time job. Right now, AGA says they spend too much time on other things. And in many cases, they’re too low in the chain of command. (Federal News Radio)
  • Veterans Affairs is offering free credit monitoring for more than 2,000 vets after their personal information made it onto a family history site. posted the details, including Social Security numbers and names. It was supposed to be about vets who have died. But somehow, the site obtained information about people who are still living. VA disclosed the details after a Freedom of Information Act request. (Veterans Affairs)
  • A bribery scheme has landed two former soldiers in prison. Former Sgt. Charles Finch and Sgt. Maj. Gary Canteen were convicted and sentenced to jail time for their roles in a trucking contract scandal. The Justice Department says the pair took a $50,000 bribe from two people working for AZ corporation, so the company could get a $20 million contract for work in Afghanistan. Finch and Canteen will also pay $250,000 in restitution. (Justice Department)
  • Postal labor union talks failed this weekend, as the price of stamps went up. The Postal Service has declared an impasse in the contract talks with the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Handlers Union. The two unions represent more than $242,000 postal workers. Their contracts expired in November. The deadline for talks has already been extended twice. At issue is how much power the Postal Service will have to alter pay and benefits and issue layoffs. The impasse triggers 60 days of mediation. If that fails, an outside arbitrator will decide a final solution. At the same time, the price of postage was raised Sunday. First class stamps go up a penny to 45-cents — the first hike in 2-1/2 years. It’s expected to earn the cash strapped postal service $888 million more in revenue this year. (NALC)
  • Prospects are looking brighter for long-term FAA funding. The agency has been running on a series of continuing resolutions. That’s because lawmakers have been unable to reach agreement on labor rules. Last summer FAA suffered a temporary shutdown. But now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner have found a compromise. It leaves intact a National Mediation Board ruling that lets workers form a union with a simple majority of those voting. It also lets stand a Republican-backed rule that 50 percent of workers must say so before a union election can be held. The compromise will be put to the test later this year in time for 2013 budget talks. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is proposing a new system for inspecting poultry. He says it could save the government $95 million in the next three years. The jobs of 1,000 government inspectors would change. Instead of inspecting birds for flaws, they would be re-deployed to jobs with more impact on food safety. Such as sampling for pathogens and checking sanitary conditions at slaughter sites. Chicken processors would take over the inspections of birds. The poultry industry supports the move, but some consumer groups oppose it. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department plans to move its hospital health records to Defense Department data centers. NextGov reports, those moves will start in March. VA CIO Roger Baker says the Defense Information Systems Agency will host records from the Vista systems now operated at hospital sites. That move will help merge health records of soldiers as they leave the military and have their health care taken over by VA. It’s also the second big cloud computing move by VA. The agency already moved GI Bill records to a commercial cloud provider. (NextGov)