Thursday morning federal headlines – Jan. 5, 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.

  • Starting this week, there’s another chair in the Tank. That’s the meeting room of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The 2012 Defense authorization law makes Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, a full member of the Joint Chiefs. Congress made the change despite objections from existing members of the JCS. McKinley and his predecessors frequently attended JCS meetings, but only at the invitation of the chairman. Supporters argued, the Guard brings an important national security perspective to Joint Chiefs deliberations. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Obama made four recess appointments. That immediately set off protests from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Senate has been meeting in brief, pro-forma sessions. That, McConnell says, should prevent the president from making recess appointments. The president appointed Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Bureau has been leaderless since starting operations last year. And President Obama named two Democrats and one Republican to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB has been non-functional with only two members. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Obama will personally outline a new plan for the nation’s military when he visits the Pentagon later today. His goal is maintaining superiority with flat budgets and a changing worldwide threat environment. The president is expected to announce a move away from long-held doctrine of being able to fight and win on two fronts simultaneously. He is also expected to outline cuts to U.S. forces in Europe and in weapons systems. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will attend the president’s address. (Federal News Radio)
  • The deadline to nominate the best and brightest at your agency for a big honor, has been extended. Feds now have until Jan. 18 to nominate colleagues for the Service to America Awards. The Sammies are run by the Partnership for Public Serivce. Every year they honor federal employees for their outstanding contributions and innovations. (Service to America)
  • Twenty-five thousand workers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are now using cloud email. NOAA has completed its transition to Google G-mail. Google says NOAA’s the largest federal agency to move email to the cloud. NOAA hired a contractor, ERT Incorporated, to make the move happen. NOAA workers also have access to other online Google applications for scheduling, writing documents and creating web pages. (Federal News Radio)
  • Simple, clear and straightforward is how you should write executive summaries for all proposed and final regulations. That is the latest guidance from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. OIRA administrator Cass Sunstein issued a two-page memo calling for straightforward executive summaries. They should separately describe major provisions and policy choices, and generally be placed at the start of regulatory notices. Sunstein said complicated executive summaries make it more difficult for the public to understand and comment on proposed rules. OIRA also provides a suggested template for how to construct these summaries. (
  • The IRS received a good report card on efforts to diversify its executive ranks. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration says, senior executives at IRS are more diverse than those at other agencies. The IG looked at 2009 data. It found 44 percent of top managers at the IRS are female, compared with 31 percent government-wide. White males make up 41 percent of top management at the IRS, compared with 59 percent government-wide. The IG credited what it called a broad approach to diversity by IRS leadership. (Treasury)
  • When Congress returns from its break later this month, your pay and benefits could be on the chopping block once again. The National Treasury Employees Union is getting a jump start before lawmakers return in trying to stop or limit provisions that could affect federal employees in the payroll tax cut extension debate. Congress is expected to debate a one-year extension soon after it returns from the holiday break. NTEU sent letters to seven senators and 13 House members asking them to remove any provisions from the payroll tax cut extension bill that would affect federal employees pay and benefits. NTEU president Colleen Kelley says the provisions in the House version of the bill disproportionately affects federal employees. House provisions would extend the pay freeze for another year, increase employee pension contributions by 1.5 percent and eliminate the security security supplement over three years. (NTEU)