Tuesday morning federal headlines – Jan. 31, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • A new study by the Congressional Budget Office finds, federal pay and benefits do differ from those in the private sector. But how much depends on your level of education. Federal workers with only a high school degree earn 21 percent more than in the private sector. Pay for people with bachelors degrees is about the same. Those with advanced degrees earn about 23 percent less in the federal government. Overall, benefits for the federal government are higher than in the private sector. CBO says it tried to adjust the results for hard-to-define work factors such as motivation. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Peace Corps is looking to expand its ranks of volunteers. It’s opening up overseas jobs to Americans with at least 10 years of working experience and foreign language skills. Until now, positions in the Peace Corps Response program were only open to former volunteers. The Response positions last several months. They come with health care coverage and a small monthly stipend. Peace Corps director Aaron Williams says the agency is looking for culturally sensitive people who are motivated and flexible. To fill out an application, go here. (Peace Corps)
  • The White House is claiming success in a year-long program to reduce complex or expensive business regulations. Cass Sunstein, the chief regulator, says agencies have come up with 500 proposals for regulations to change or eliminate. Sunstein cites Health and Human Services, which he says finalized a rule to help rural hospitals and patients save millions using telemedicine. Labor will launch a rule to harmonize hazard warning signs with those of other countries, saving employers $1.5 billion. Sunstein’s latest blog entry also names Agriculture, EPA, the Federal Communications Commission and Homeland Security. (WhiteHouse.gov)
  • The Homeland Security Department details new guidance for its employees and contractors for handling and safeguarding personnel identifiable information. The 56-page guidance also includes procedures for responding to a privacy data breach whether electronic or paper, and creates individual accountability for compliance for everyone from the CIO to the help desk to the public affairs employees. DHS gives employees five factors to determine how much risk the agency is facing with the privacy breach. It also offers steps the agency can take to mitigate harm to employees, citizens or other federal departments. (DHS)
  • Civilian workers at the Air Force have until Friday to decide if they are want to apply for early retirement or a buyout. The Air Force wants to shed about 4,500 civilian workers in 2012 to reduce staffing to 2010 levels. The service will approve applicants in mid-February. Those who are approved must leave their positions by April 30. Airmen are encouraged to contact their local civilian personnel section as every base manages their own force reduce program. (Air Force)
  • Operation Fast and Furious was either a rogue operation in a distant bureau, or a flawed policy sanctioned by the Attorney General. Congressional Republicans and Democrats disagree. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans have contended, Attorney General Eric Holder knew about Fast and Furious all along. But Democrats on the Committee looked into the ill-fated gun-walking plan on their own. They say it was conceived and carried out by strictly by AFT agents near the Southwest Border. And that Justice headquarters was not involved. The question comes up for debate at a hearing Thursday. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House will vote this week on a bill to extend the federal pay freeze another year. But this time, the freeze would also apply to congressional salaries. Federal employee unions have slammed the proposal. Colleen Kelly, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, says the bill presents a political Hobson’s Choice. To lift the federal employee freeze, lawmakers must vote themselves a raise. The bill was introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.). Its vote occurs under rules usually reserved for routine proclamations.The White House has proposed a 0.5 percent raise for federal workers in 2013.(Federal News Radio)
  • The Air Force chief information officer says today’s cyber operators are like World War I pilots flying bi-planes. Lt. Gen.William Lord says it took decades to realize the full potential of airplanes with fighter jets and long-range bombers, and cyber will be no different. But Lord tells cyber Airmen at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas not to worry as the Air Force has always faced change and come out ahead. He says cyber has become so important to joint military capabilities that some DoD units consider not operating if cyber capabilities are no in play. (Air Force)
  • The number of federal employees in unions increased slightly in 2011. A new report by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics finds about 28 percent of all federal employees are members of a union, up from just under 27 percent last year. BLS looks at private and public sector union membership in its annual report. It found overall, the public sector, which also includes state and local governments, are 37 percent unionized. The private sector just 7 percent unionized. (Federal News Radio)