Tuesday morning federal headlines – April 3, 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.

  • GSA administrator Martha Johnson resigned yesterday in the wake of a tough report about an agency conference. GSA Inspector General Brian Miller issued a report detailing contracting irregularities and excessive spending. GSA spent more than $800,000 on a training conference in Las Vegas. It occurred in October 2010, seven months after Johnson took office. The administration fired GSA Building Services Commissioner Robert Peck, and it dismissed Stephen Leeds, an aide to Johnson. (Federal News Radio)
  • Yesterday’s release of 1940s census data proved popular with the public — too popular. The National Archives and Records Administration logged 22 million website visits in four hours. The site slowed to a near standstill. By 5 p.m. yesterday, it logged 37 million hits. This morning a notice told visitors NARA was beefing up the site. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Food and Drug Administration is taking new steps to help implement an anti-tobacco law. It is issuing draft guidance for reporting that’s required of cigarette and other tobacco manufacturers. One guide outlines how tobacco makers and importers must report quantities of 20 potentially harmful chemicals in their products. The other lays out proposed rules for marketing smokeless and other so-called lower-risk tobacco products. The guidance is prompted by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. (FDA)
  • Canadian defense officials are deciding whether to cancel a commitment to buy F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Canada agreed to buy 65 of the new planes from Lockheed at a total price of $9 billion. But Reuters reported Canada’s conservative government is under budgetary pressure, and it’s concerned about the increasing costs and delays of the new planes. An auditor’s report is due out this morning that will help officials make their decision. (Reuters)
  • A telephone robo-call scheme is on the hook for a $30 million fine. A federal judge imposed the fine following a Federal Trade Commission investigation. It was the largest civil penalty ever against violators of the FTC Act and Telemarketing Sales Rule. The operation called millions of people. Many numbers were listed on the do-not-call list. Calls told of free money available from the government, and directed victims to a phony website calling itself the Cash Grant Institute. (FTC)
  • Veterans Affairs said it’s getting a handle on the mountains of disability claims it receives. Secretary Eric Shinseki told Congress the agency is rolling out an automated tool that would help it reach “the tipping point.” Shinseki said he didn’t want veterans to wait longer than four months for their disability benefits. VA received 1.3 million claims last year and could process just three-quarters of them. Shinseki said he was building on the agency’s success at processing Post 9-11 GI bill claims. The lesson, he said, was to keep manual processing going until automation is in full swing. He expected that to happen by fall. (DoD)
  • That pesky federal deficit problem won’t go away, even under the toughest measures passed by Congress. The Government Accountability Office has looked at the government’s long-term fiscal health in a new report. It said the economy was getting better and last summer’s Budget Control Act would help close the gap between revenue and spending. The Affordable Care Act would help too. But the Congressional watchdog said none of those could tackle rising healthcare costs for an aging population. (GAO)
  • More lawmakers are supporting a bill to open federal employees’ benefits to their same-sex partners. Twenty senators — all Democrats — have signed onto legislation from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee leaders. The lone Republican sponsor is Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). She said the government competes for job applicants with companies that offer domestic partners benefits. Federal personnel officials told a health insurance company last week to enroll the partner of a gay federal worker right away. But that decision applied to just one person: the wife of Karen Golinski, who had brought a lawsuit. (Senate.gov)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is opening its annual survey to all federal workers this year. It has sent out emails with links to the Employee Viewpoint Survey. The survey asks questions about morale, work relations and work-life issues like telework. OPM usually canvasses just a third of federal workers. The findings come out in the fall and are used to create a list of the best — and worst — agencies to work for. (OPM)