Thursday morning federal headlines – May 10, 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.

  • The federal government is repackaging its internship program just as college students and new graduates enter the job market. The Pathways program encompasses job opportunities for three types of people: students, recent graduates and Presidential Management Fellows. The Office of Personnel Management said Pathways will be simpler for everyone to understand than the patchwork system of programs that it replaces. Federal unions sued the government over the old internship program. They said agencies used it to circumvent the normal, competitive hiring process. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Transportation Security Administration is in hot water for allegedly lying to Congress. Two House committees looked into how the TSA handled the acquisition and management of screening equipment. Investigators said TSA staff stored expensive equipment instead of deploying it. Then, they hid some of the stored equipment from the investigators. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said TSA staff may have engaged in a criminal cover-up. The staff report coincided with release of a Government Accountability Office report on TSA that also found problems with how TSA handled screening gear. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Navy has embarked on a major upgrade to its corporate network, one of the largest in the world. Two teams of contractors have already jumped into the competition for NGEN, the Next Generation Enterprise Network. The Navy released its long-awaited request for proposals yesterday. The contract would be $4.5 billion in its first five years. NGEN will eventually serve 700,000 sailors, Marines and civilian personnel. Vendor teams led by Hewlett Packard and CSC are expected to go for the deal. HP has the contract for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, which NGEN would replace. n(Federal News Radio)
  • A House panel is backing new limits on gays in the military. The House Armed Services Committee has approved two measures. One would prevent same-sex couples from marrying or having commitment ceremonies on military installations. The other would force the military to accommodate service members or chaplains who oppose homosexuality on religious or moral grounds. The provisions are part of a Defense reauthorization bill and passed on party lines. Critics said the committee was trying to turn back the clock just months after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Federal News Radio)
  • Sailors aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Cape St. George received a special visit from Miss America this week. Teresa Scanlan, who was crowned in January, had lunch with the crew and learned about life on board a Navy vessel. She’s made several USO appearances as Miss America, but the Navy has a special appeal for Scanlan. She’s considering the Navy to practice military law as a judge advocate general. (Navy)
  • Senators came together yesterday to approve more protections for federal whistleblowers. They said the bill would encourage feds to report wrongdoing at their agencies and make it harder for bosses to retaliate against them. It would cover Transportation Security Administration employees for the first time and would also give workers in the intelligence community new rights and establish an ombudsman to educate agency officials about whistleblower rights. Despite a unanimous vote, supporters were cautious about the bill’s chances of becoming law. Similar measures have gotten through one chamber in the past only to die in the other one. (Federal News Radio)
  • The nation’s fabled corner drugstores appear to be hotbeds of Medicare fraud. The Health and Human Services IG has found 2,600 local pharmacies were paid $5.6 billion in questionable Medicare claims. A drugstore in Kansas submitted bills showing two patients each received 1,000 prescriptions in a single year. The research was directed by the New York regional inspector general’s office. It used statistical analysis to look at a billion transactions. Marilyn Tavenner, Medicare administrator, said she accepted the findings, but she said asking insurers to police drug store billings would be burdensome. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration has cancelled another training conference just a week before it was supposed to go on. The agency gave no reason for this cancellation, although it has new restrictions on conferences in the wake of the scandal over a lavish one in Las Vegas. The Government Web and New Media Conference was supposed to begin Wednesday in Washington. It was meant for feds and contractors who use online tools like social media for work. The schedule included speeches by CIO Steven VanRoekel, experts from Walmart and tech firms. (
  • The Postal Service is offering buyouts to its 21,000 postmasters. Most of them are eligible for retirement now. The buyouts are part of a new, more modest attempt to cut costs. The agency’s first plan to close small, underused post offices angered lawmakers from rural areas. The Postal Service has backed off of it. (Federal News Radio)