Tuesday morning federal headlines – April 17, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The leader of the government’s efforts at trusted online identities is reporting progress. Jeremy Grant, senior program advisor to the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, said NSTIC will award a two-year contract to manage working groups creating pieces of the identity ecosystem. That award is expected by the end of May. By August, NSTIC will choose up to eight pilot programs to fund. Recipients will develop pieces of a future ID infrastructure. NSTIC’s goal is a national marketplace for products to replace passwords. The program is run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to revamp regulations.gov. That website provides a way for people to read and comment on agency rules. But the EPA, which runs the site, wants to make it easier for visitors to find things and participate in rulemaking. It’s working on new tools for searches and comments. The agency is also adding features to let other sites use information from regulations.gov. EPA will roll out the changes throughout the year. (EPA)
  • Look up in the sky around 10 a.m. today to see the victory lap of the Space Shuttle Discovery. The retired shuttle is set to circle Washington as it makes its final landing at Dulles International Airport. It will be on the back of a modified jumbo jet. NASA said it would fly near the National Mall, although the exact route would depend on weather and security. The agency has posted online recommended viewing areas. Discovery is the first of the three retired space shuttles to head to a museum. It will become a highlight at the National Air and Space Museum. (NASA)
  • All Agriculture Department buildings in the Washington,D.C.-area are open today. The agency said employees should head to work. A minor electrical fire closed six buildings at USDA’s headquarters yesterday. It took out power and Internet. Officials said everything should be back in service. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration is asking a former executive to repay the agency for an exclusive hotel-room party at a Las Vegas conference. Bob Peck lost his job as Public Buildings Service commissioner after news of the spending scandal broke. He will appear on Capitol Hill today in the second of four Congressional hearings. Former GSA Administrator Martha Johnson apologized to lawmakers at yesterday’s event. She said she learned of the conference from auditors. Jeff Neely, the regional public buildings service commissioner at the heart of the spending scandal, appeared on the panel, but he declined to answer questions. The agency’s inspector general told lawmakers he is continuing to investigate Neely for possible bribery and kickbacks, and he has asked the Justice Department to pursue criminal charges. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal employees will see an increase in the mileage reimbursement rate for employees who use their own vehicles for work, GovExec reported. The rate will increase by 4.5 cents bringing it up to 55.5 cents per mile. New rates will also go into effect for privately owned airplanes, government owned vehicles and motorcycles.The increase is in response to rising gas prices and takes effect today. (GovExec)
  • The Air Force lifted a suspension on a government contractor that disclosed sensitive information. Booz Allen Hamilton said it would file quarterly reports showing how it was implementing “remedial measures.” The company hired a former Air Force lieutenant colonel who had copied sensitive information before he left the service. He shared that information on a pending Air Force award valued at $75 million with his new colleagues. Booz Allen was planning to compete for a follow-on contract. It dropped that plan and fired the employee. (Air Force)
  • Budget cuts are taking a toll at the Internal Revenue Service. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said a smaller bank account and reduced work hours meant the agency was serving fewer taxpayers. Wait times for help have increased and the IRS was answering fewer phone calls. The audit also found problems with the agency’s move to a new e-filing system. (Federal News Radio)
  • Postal groups are using tax day — today — to sound a warning. The American Postal Workers Union and National Mail Handlers Union have joined to spread word about potential cuts at the Postal Service. They’re passing out flyers about planned post office closures and possible job cuts. USPS has announced plans to get rid of 3,600 post offices and consolidate more than 200 mail processing centers. The agency has racked up about $14 billion in red ink over the past two years. The Senate plans to take up postal reform legislation today. (APWU)