Wednesday morning federal headlines – March 21, 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.

  • Personnel disputes may take longer to resolve, and whistleblowers may have a tougher time getting a fair hearing. Those possibilities could become a reality if the budgets of two agencies are cut too far. Leaders of the Merit Systems Protection Board and Office of Special Counsel told senators they have no more fat to cut. MSPB chairman Susan Grundmann warned case resolution time would stretch beyond its current 98 days. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner pointed out 89 percent of her budget went to people and rent. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Army said it’s close to putting out requests for proposals for renewable energy projects. It planned to have private contractors build generating capacity on Army property. The power would be available to both the Army and the public grid. But during a blackout, the Army would have dibs on power produced on its property. Project leaders said they had 15 projects in the planning stage, but they haven’t decided which ones would go to bid. The Army has set aside $7 billion for the program. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House passed a bill overhauling how the federal government disposes of excess real estate. It called for a pilot program to sell off 15 high-value but underused properties. The Federal Building and Property Disposal Act would let agencies keep some of the proceeds from buildings they sold. Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the bill passed unanimously. Last year the Government Accountability Office estimated the government had more than 14,000 properties eligible for disposal. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Obama dminstration’s national broadband plan failed to move the needle on the percentage of households with broadband. A group of technology CEOs released a study showing the percentage was stuck in the 68 percent range. TechNet, which described itself as bipartisan, said industry and federal efforts to push broadband have been un-coordinated. The stagnant broadband adoption rate persisted even as millions more Americans acquired smartphones. (TechNet)
  • House Republicans have released a budget plan that would change federal pay and benefits. The blueprint called for extending the federal pay freeze through 2015. It would also increase retirement contributions, having feds pay for half of their pensions. The federal workforce would also shrink by 10 percent over three years. GOP leaders said the plan would save nearly $400 billion in 10 years, but the White House called it unbalanced and that it failed the test of shared responsibility. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House is telling agencies how to simplify rule-making. Regulations chief Cass Sunstein said anyone considering a new rule should talk to stakeholders in order to avoid duplication. He also wanted agencies to speak with the private sector and governments to find out how new rules could affect them. Sunstein said that taken in isolation, a new rule might seem sensible, but it could overlap with existing requirements and have unintended effects. (Federal News Radio)