Wednesday morning federal headlines – Jan. 4, 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.

  • It may not be a tsunami yet, but many feds are already jumping ship and retiring. More federal workers retired at the end of 2011 than in recent years. The Office of Personnel Management says, a retirement wave that usually begins in January has started a few months early. That’s putting pressure on agencies to draft and implement succession plans, and focus on training and development. A poll by the Society for Human Resource management found less than a quarter of organizations nationwide have formal succession plans. Many agencies lack plans for their human resources departments in particular, says a report by the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton. (Federal News Radio)
  • A material most people never see or touch makes modern life possible. It also earns its federally-backed academic inventors record levels of royalty dollars. The material is solder. Specifically, lead-free solder, used in countless electronic products. Lead-free solder was developed 15 years ago by researchers from the Energy Department’s Ames National Laboratory and Iowa State University. In 2011, lead-free solder brought ISU nearly $40 million in royalties, the most in the college’s and the lab’s history. ISU’s contract with the Energy Department lets the university keep royalties from government-funded intellectual property. (Energy Department)
  • The Air Force launches a second round of buyouts and early retirements for civilian employees. The latest round of voluntary early retirement authority and voluntary separation incentive pay continue the Air Force’s drive to keep civilian staffing at 2010 levels. Workers will receive eligibility surveys beginning Jan. 9. Applications are due Feb. 3. If approved, employees would leave by April 30. The first round of buyouts was offered to more than 6,000 civilian employees. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Obama signed several pieces of legislation passed by Congress just before the holiday period. A new airport security law lets uniformed members of the U.S. military have expedited screening. They’ll have to be in uniform, and they’ll have to present their orders in order to go through the faster screening process. In most cases they won’t have to unlace and remove combat boots. The president also sighed the authorization bill for the intelligence community.(Federal News Radio)
  • The Air Force Special Operations Command is giving iPads to its air crews. The tablet computers will replace paper navigation charts and technical manuals. NextGov reports, the command plans to acquire nearly 3,000 iPad 2s and hand one to every crew member. Technicians tested tablets in five aircraft and found iPads best met the special operations command’s requirements. The iPads will contain digital versions of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Flight Information Publications for navigation. (NextGov)
  • Congress has barred the Defense Department from spending money to certify its buildings as LEED Gold or Platinum. Federal Times reports, that provision was tucked into the 2012 Defense Authorization bill the president signed last month. Gold and Platinum are the two highest energy efficiency ratings from the U.S. Green Building Council. The bill also requires DOD to submit reports to Congress analyzing the costs and benefits of seeking lower-level LEED certifications. The law lets DOD agencies proceed if they can prove payback from the expense of LEED efforts. (Federal Times)
  • Every federal program manager has to deal with the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act. That hasn’t changed in 2012. But now the Office of Personnel Management has released new guidance on how to do it. OPM says, implementing the Act requires 34 skills. Congress required OPM to develop the list of competencies when it passed GPRA modernization in 2010. OPM Director John Berry says his agency will provide guidance on how managers should incorporate the skills and competencies into job descriptions. OPM will also work with agency Chief Learning Officers to bake the skills into agency training programs. (
  • Agencies took back more than $1 billion in overpayments to contractors last year. The Office of Management and Budget reports an 80 percent increase compared to 2010. A big chunk of the overpayment recovery comes from the Medicare’s Recovery Audit Contractor program. It brought in $460 million by reviewing payment information and finding errors. The Obama administration set a goal of $2 billion by the end of 2012. So far, OMB reports agencies recaptured $1.9 billion in 2010 and 2011 alone. (OMB)
  • Davita Vance-Cooks is the first women to serve as the nation’s public printer. Vance-Cooks takes over for Bill Boarman and will serve in an acting role. The Senate did not confirm Boarman and his recess appointment ended in December. Vance-Cooks has been with the Government Printing Office for almost eight years, serving as chief of staff and managing director of the agency’s customer services and procurement business unit. She spent 22 years in the private sector and spent time as vice president of operations for MidAtlanta Health Plan where she was responsible for a digital print work center. (GPO)