Monday morning federal headlines – Jan. 30, 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.

  • A showdown may be on the horizon for protestors in D.C. U.S. Park Police begin enforcing a no-camping rule at two sites where protestors have been living, and demonstrating for more than three months. The National Park Service says protesters at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza can be arrested if they violate the rule. The park service defines camping as using park land for activities such as sleeping. It says camping materials must be removed and temporary structures must be left open for inspection. Some protesters say they can get around the regulation by not sleeping, or just ditching their sleeping gear. Other occupiers say they are willing to risk arrest. A sleep strike is planned by some protestors starting today at 11 a.m. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Air Force plans to reduce its uniformed ranks by 10,000 airman over the next five years. Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz says the staff reductions will bring the Air Force headcount in line with its current force structure. The Air Force has already cut its ranks of officers by about 4,000. Schwartz also wants the Air Force to be included in any base realignment and closure DOD will request from Congress. Schwartz says the Air Force infrastructure is probably 20 percent too big. (Federal News Radio)
  • Six former Food and Drug Administration scientists and doctors are suing the agency for allegedly looking at their private emails. Washington Post reports, the former employees say FDA officials took screen shots of their emails detailing alleged corruption. The lawsuit says the information gathered by FDA officials led to all six employees leaving. The Post says the FDA doesn’t comment on litigation. FDA warns employees through a pop-up window when users log-on that they should not expect any privacy of information, sent through or stored on the agency’s network. (Washington Post)
  • It will cost your agency a little more every time an employee accepts a buyout or retires early. The Office of Personnel Management says agencies must pay more than $107 to process each annuitant case. In the 2012 spending bill, Congress instructed OPM to charge agencies for each person who retires early or accepts a buyout. The $107 fee is on top of the $25,000 agencies offer as an incentive to leave. (OPM)
  • The Justice Department is tightening procedures for responding to information requests from Congress. The move comes after conflicting reports went to the Hill in connection with the Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning investigation. Staff from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told one version of the story. Top Justice officials inadvertently told another. The new DOJ guidance tells the higher-ups to get information from staff closest to a particular matter before sending reports to Congress. (Federal News Radio)
  • It doesn’t pay to double dip. A Virginia man has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for holding two jobs at once. Jeffery K. Armstrong of South Riding took a leave of absence from an Army civilian job. He then took a $160,000 security job at the United Nations in New York. While holding that job, he also applied for and got a position at the National Labor Relations Board for $120,000. For months, he used a variety of methods to keep supervisors from knowing. He was caught, indicted last June and convicted in October. Armstrong’s sentence includes $128,000 in restitution. (Justice Department)
  • The Internal Revenue Service is expanding a program to offer free tax return preparation and filing for elderly and low-income people. This year more than 12,000 sites will offer the services. It’s all part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA. IRS teams with the AARP and community groups to identify qualified preparers. VITA is available to people over 60-years old, or who earn less than $50,000. The Armed Forces Tax Council offers similar tax prep service to military members and their families. (IRS)
  • Navy ships are about to get upgraded computer networks. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command will award a $690 million contract Wednesday. NextGov reports, the two competitors are Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The program is called CANES, for Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services. This week’s award will cover 54 of the Navy’s 286 ships. Later competitions will result in contracts for the rest of the ships and 60 submarines. (NextGov)
  • The Pentagon is preparing for new military talks with Iraq. Their goal is to define a long-term defense relationship that could include expanding U.S. training help. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s chief policy aide, Michele Flournoy, says the administration is open to Iraqi suggestions about the scope and depth of defense ties. Flournoy retires from her post on Friday. (Federal News Radio)