Thursday morning federal headlines – April 12, 2012

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • A new Roth option for the Thrift Savings Plan will finally launch on May 7. It was originally planned to launch in early 2012, but the start date was delayed, in part, to give agency payroll departments more time to prepare. It will allow federal employees to contribute after-tax dollars toward their retirement-savings accounts. Under the new rules, employees will be able to invest in both the traditional TSP, the new Roth option or a combination of the two. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board began planning the Roth TSP after it was authorized in June 2009. It unveiled draft regulations for the new plan in February. (Federal News Radio)
  • Smart phones and tablets are sweeping into government faster than agencies can figure out how to secure them. The Transportation Security Administration CIO said 50,000 TSA employees work away from an office, but the agency is only in the beginning stages of developing mobile device security policies. The Marine Corps cybersecurity chief said he’s trying to get in front of the problem. His staff developed a three-level security strategy. (Federal News Radio)
  • The acting administrator and inspector general of the General Services Administration issued a request. They want employees to stand up and report cases of waste, fraud and abuse. A letter signed by Dan Tangherlini and Brian Miller came as the agency is regrouping. Top leaders were fired or quit after Miller’s report detailed overspending on a conference. The two promise there won’t be any retaliation against those who come forward. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Credit Union Administration is launching a website devoted to the financial literacy of children. The site explains how money and currency work and includes information on managing money. The NCUA is in the midst of a month-long literacy campaign. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened an online college tuition calculator that’s designed to help families figure out college costs and how to pay for them. The tool is part of the bureau’s Know-Before-You-Owe campaign on student loans. (NCUA/CFPB)
  • Critics of the General Services Administration’s spending have a new target: employee relocation expenses. GSA spent millions to transfer staff from one office to another, including $330,000 to move one worker from Denver to Hawaii. The Associated Press obtained a transcript of the inspector general’s interviews with employees. In them, the workers said GSA paid for house hunting, groceries and even buying the former house if the employee who was moving couldn’t sell it. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called this latest news one more example of GSA’s “abusive spending.” His committee holds a hearing Monday. (Federal News Radio)
  • Auditors said Customs and Border Protection lost control of its workers’ compensation program. The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general said CBP did not review bills to validate costs, nor did it consistently manage case files. The IG blamed organizational structure, lack of policies and procedures. It said the agency needed to review all cases and require that employees who have recovered actually come back to work. CBP paid out $62 million to injured workers in 2010. (DHS)
  • Agencies focused on business and the economy released their first report on intellectual property. The Commerce and Labor Departments said the IP industry employed more than 27 million people in 2010 and contributed more than $5 trillion to the GDP. IP Enforcement Czar Victoria Espinel said the report “makes good” on the government’s promise to measure IP and know its impact on the U.S.economy. The Patent and Trademark Office said it has reduced its backlog of patent applications by 15 percent since 2009 despite an increase in filings. (White House)
  • Federal investigators are criticizing the Treasury Department for being slow to help troubled homeowners. The special inspector general for TARP — the Troubled Asset Relief Program — will release her report today. Christy Romero told the New York Times the “Hardest Hit Fund” distributed just 3 percent of its money. It was supposed to help homeowners in communities most hurt by the burst of the housing bubble. The report blamed a lack of planning and leadership at Treasury. Treasury estimated that the program would reach at least 3 million homeowners. It’s helped fewer than a million.