Friday morning federal headlines – Feb. 17, 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.

  • One federal agent is dead, another injured after a shootout in front of a federal building in Long Beach, Calif. The FBI says an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer shot and injured another agent. The shooter was then killed by a third colleague. The FBI is calling it a case of workplace violence. Investigators say the first ICE agent opened fire on his superior, wounding him. That’s when the other ICE agent intervened. (Federal News Radio)
  • Homeland Security is friending lots of people on Facebook, it’s following millions on Twitter and it’s analyzing the data it gathers. But agency brass tell Congress, it’s not breaking any laws or invading privacy. DHS officials were called before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The hearing followed a lawsuit by a privacy group concerned about a social media monitoring program by DHS. Mary Ellen Callahan, the department’s chief privacy officer, says the program operates with the bounds of the Privacy Act and the First Amendment. (Federal News Radio)
  • Congress could vote as early as today on a bill to cut the payroll tax and extend unemployment benefits. The extension has a price tag of $30 billion. The bill has a way to help pay for it. Newly hired federal workers would contribute 3.1 percent of their salaries towards retirement. The current rate is 0.8 percent. The bill has widespread but not complete support in both houses. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Obama administration has submitted a bill to give the President more authority to consolidate and reorganize federal agencies. Jeffrey Zients, the acting budget director, is the point man with Congress. He says the bill is needed to create what the administration calls a 21st century government. President Obama has said his first priority is trade competitiveness. He wants to reorganize six trade-related agencies under a single Cabinet-level agency. (Federal News Radio)
  • Visitors to the recent Washington Auto Show might have seen some spiffy new dashboard entertainment centers. Some of them have screens as big as an iPad. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood doesn’t like it. His National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing guidelines for carmakers. The voluntary guidelines would cover doodads in cars that might distract drivers. They would apply to any in-car devices not required to operate the vehicle. Like those spiffy in-dash entertainment systems. DOT’s 2013 budget request includes $330 million over six years for a distracted driving awareness program. (
  • The Postal Service may offer buyouts and early retirement incentives to get more than a 100,000 workers off its payroll fast. The agency calls it a “soft landing.” It has already discussed the option with the Office of Personnel Management. That’s one leg of its revised five-year recovery plan, and requires Congress’ help because the agency is so low on cash. The plan also emphasizes restructuring the USPS network and taking workers out of the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program and into a new Postal Service healthcare plan. (Federal News Radio)
  • Washington and Lincoln may be overshadowed this President’s Day. Monday marks the 50th anniversary of Astronaut John Glenn’s historic flight into space. Glenn comes back to NASA later today to help kick off the golden anniversary of Americans in orbit. Next week, he’ll be visiting helping the agency encourage college kids to consider NASA careers. Not that NASA needs much help. It recently received the highest number of applications in 30 years for astronaut positions, even without a space shuttle program. (NASA/Federal News Radio)
  • The Labor Department says it has too many regional offices. It wants to consolidate some of them to save $19 million this year. The White House 2013 budget request says the agency is targeting programs that include OSHA, the Employees Benefits Security Administration and the public affairs office. The Federal Times reports, the public affairs office will close its Denver and Seattle branches. OSHA is looking for savings in those cities plus Boston, New York, Kansas City and San Francisco. The Agriculture Department and Census Bureau’s budgets show those agencies also are looking at consolidating field offices. (Federal Times)
  • The Government Accountability Office will testify to Congress today that the Defense Department has tried to prevent duplicative investments. But GAO says those initiatives haven’t shown results yet. GAO’s written testimony singles out DoD’s civilian personnel management system and various contract management systems as places where the agency should look again. The Defense Department canceled that in 2010, after a decade of development and $850 million. DoD officials will also testify at the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing. It will focus on the Department of Energy’s IT investments too. GAO says nearly half of the government’s 800 major IT investments need a hard, second look. (House Oversight and Government Reform)
  • A long-awaited cybersecurity bill ran into problems at a Senate committee hearing yesterday. The bipartisan legislation drew objections from Republicans who say it would give the Homeland Security Department too much regulatory authority over private sector owners of critical infrastructure. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano says, however, the bill is more about cybersecurity and information sharing, than about regulation. GOPlawmakers say they’ll offer an alternative measure calling for more cooperation with businesses. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants a vote in the next few weeks. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal unions could have a greater say in who gets assigned to work projects and what type of office equipment they should use. The National Council on Labor and Management Relations — an advisory group of agency leaders, union and management reps — plans to make those recommendations to President Obama. Government Executive reports, the council unanimously approved an outline of a report that’s positive on so-called B-one bargaining. The council has tested the idea through 12 large-scale pilot projects. But those types of negotiations haven’t been required since the Clinton era. (Government Executive)