Wednesday morning federal headlines – May 2, 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.

  • You know sequestration, should it occur, will hit your budget hard. Now you’ll know how hard. A new Congressional Research Service report pegs sequestration cuts at 12.1 percent. Unless Congress acts, across-the-board budget cuts will start Jan. 2. Sequestration is the result of last year’s Budget Control Act. It calls for 10-year spending cuts of $1.2 trillion starting in 2013. Social Security and Medicare spending are exempt from the sequester. (Federal News Radio)
  • Secret Service investigators say prostitutes used by agents in Colombia posed no national security threats. Officials have been poring over interviews with the women. None has been found on a watch list or any other connection to terror groups. Those findings were in a report revealed by Repr. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. The Secret Service is still sorting out the scandal. Agents brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms just before a presidential trip to Colombia last month. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lawmakers are asking the Postal Service for more time to pass a bill to restructure the agency. The Postal Service has put more than 3,000 post offices on the chopping block, but it has agreed not to close any of them until May 15. Backers of a bill that just passed the Senate say they need more time than that to convince the House to go along with their plan. They warn the Postal Service that any attempts to close offices before the bill becomes law — or “get in under the wire” — would be counterproductive and violate their intent. The bill would make it harder for the agency to close post offices. And there’s no guarantee the House will go along with it. A radically different overhaul bill is moving through that chamber. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
  • Buyouts are proving popular at the IRS. Federal Times reports, more than 1,200 employees took early retirement and buyout offers in fiscal 2011.That represents more than 1 percent of the agency’s total workforce. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS workers, says the agency has lost 5,000 employees over the past two years, and the cuts are hurting the agency’s ability to help customers. Meanwhile, the number of tax returns being filed is growing. (Federal Times)
  • A new survey shows federal employees are happier with their Thrift Savings Plan. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board finds 86 percent of feds say they’re satisfied. That’s an increase of 5 percent over the last survey in 2008. It says an automatic enrollment plan and revamped website have helped. Most feds who told the board that they do not contribute to the TSP say they cannot afford it. But one-fifth of those who don’t participate say it is because their contributions are not matched by the government.They either are in the CSRS retirement plan or in the military. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Interior Department’s has awarded a $35 million contract for cloud e-mail. The award went to Onix Networking, a Google reseller. Interior had awarded the contract to a Microsoft reseller in 2010. But Onix and Google protested to the Court of Federal Claims. The Onix deal is $17 million lower than the original award. Interior employees will get more than e-mail. They’ll also get audio and video chat, and they’ll have the option to use several Google online applications such as Google Docs. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Social Security Administration has started providing workers with online statements of their estimated retirement benefits. The agency will save an estimated $70 million by eliminating paper statements and the postage to mail them. But recipients over 60 years old will still get the paper forms. Social Security tried online estimates in the late 1990s, but security concerns caused cancellation of the project. (Federal News Radio)
  • NOAA says a new tool is helping the United States become a more “weather-ready nation.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency deployed it yesterday. It says in tests Rapid Refresh has delivered more accurate predictions of fast-developing weather emergencies, like heavy rains that pummeled the Midwest last summer. It updates every hour with an forecast for the next 18 hours. NOAA says that’s important for pilots, as well as weather forecasters. The United States is the only country that updates computer model forecasts every hour using a mix of sensors, radars and aircraft. (NOAA)
  • The Chief Human Capital Officers Council is teaming up with the Office of Personnel Management and other agencies for the 2012 Feds Feed Families Food Drive. Feds across the country will collect and donate food and non-perishable items for the hungry in their local communities. OPM is asking CHCOs at each agency or department to appoint a chair person and at least one more volunteer to lead the drive. Those names are due by May 11. The drive will officially begin on June 1. (Office of Personnel Management)