Tuesday morning federal headlines – March 27, 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.

  • House lawmakers, once again, are considering changes to your retirement benefits. But they’re not all bad. Gov Exec reports that one proposal could allow federal retirees to roll their annual leave into their Thrift Savings Plan accounts. That money could grow–untaxed–until the person withdraws it. Other proposals aren’t as kind to your wallets. One would require you to pay 1.5 percent more of your salary towards your pension. And another would eliminate the Federal Employees Retirement System annuity supplement for early retirees. Those measures are in a transportation bill the House may take up this week. (Government Executive)
  • House Republican leaders canceled a vote Monday on a three-month transportation extension bill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he wanted the extension to give Congress more time to debate points in a permanent bill. But he couldn’t get the votes. Congress has until Saturday to pass any bill to keep transportation authorized. Otherwise, federal highway and transit programs shut down and the government can’t collect gasoline taxes. The Senate has already passed a $109 billion bill to keep transportation going until the end of fiscal 2013. (Federal News Radio)
  • A gay federal worker who challenged the government to provide health insurance for her spouse appears to have won her battle. The Office of Personnel Management had said Karen Golinski’s wife could not get coverage. But, in a letter given to the Washington Post, officials now tell her health insurance company to enroll her spouse right away. This is the first time such health care coverage has been allowed, gay rights advocates tell The Post. OPM’s decision follows a court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The law prevented the government from recognizing gay marriages. (Washington Post)
  • A secret federal study finds, Washington D.C. might not be totally destroyed by a terrorist nuclear bomb. The study was made last year by FEMA and not made public. But it has circulated on scientific and government watchdog websites. FEMA looked at what would happen if a 10 kiloton bomb explodes near the White House. Everything in a half mile radius is destroyed, about as far as the FBI building. Also, 45, thousand people would die, and 300,000 would be injured. But the city survives. Across the river, the Pentagon would only have broken windows. (Federal News Radio)
  • Six months have passed since the end of “don’t ask-don’t-tell.” Now, gay students at military academies are no longer shy about themselves. In December, students at the Coast Guard Academy formed a group called Spectrum, a gay pride organization. A similar group with the same name forms in New York at West Point, the Army’s main academy. Participants say they are treated no differently than anyone else.The phenomenon is also occurring at private military academies. Cadets at Norwich University in Vermont stage a gay pride week. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Postal Service will try to convince a skeptical Congress to let it pull out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan. Officials go before the House Oversight Committee later today. They say the Postal Service could save $7 billion a year by setting up its own plan. But an expert will tell the committee that would devastate the FEHBP. Checkbook’s Walt Francis plans to say the federal program could not withstand a loss of so many participants. The Postal Service represents about one-fourth of enrollees.On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate had planned to debate a bill to overhaul the Postal Service this week. That’s been pushed back until after lawmakers’ spring break. (House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform)
  • Who says there’s no bipartsanship? Democrats and Republicans in the House agree, they don’t like the way the Transportation Security Administration handles airport screening. At a hearing, they charged TSA with having rude screeners. Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly told TSA leadership, we’re not cattle. Republican Darryl Issa cited dire ineffectiveness. The GAO has also found mismanagement of screening programs. It says TSA rolled out a program to monitor people’s demeanor without knowing whether it works. (Federal News Radio)
  • More protest action is coming to the Defense Department’s TriCare program. The CEO of TriWest Healthcare Alliance says his company will fight an award DoD handed to arch-rival United Health Group. The 10-year contract covers health care for DOD’s 21-state Western region. It’s worth more then $20 billion. United Health got the award after it protested the original contract, which went to TriWest. TriWest CEO David McIntyre says UnitedHealth has a long history of performance and legal issues and no history of providing health care to the military. Plus, he says, Triwest’s submitted a lower bid. (TriWest press release)
  • The Navy is tuning the old adage “good enough for government work” on its head. When it comes to learning about information technology, the Navy will now accept military training as being at least equal to commercial certifications. The Navy’s CIO is Terry Halvorsen. He says military IT training is just as up-to- date as commercial. Halvorsen says it no longer makes sense to pay for commercial training for service members whose military training covered the same topics and requirements. (Federal News Radio)
  • The NCAA playoff isn’t the only March Madness tournament going on. The General Services Administration has launched its federal building bracket challenge for 2012. A dozen structures are in the running for the greatest federal building into the nation — and it’s down to the championship round. After some hard fought battles, it’s down to the U.S. Custom House in New Orleans, Louisiana and the U.S. Custom House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Click here for a photo gallery of the buildings.(GSA blog)