Wednesday morning federal headlines – June 27, 2012

  • The cash-strapped Postal Service could turn a profit if it became a bank. Outside the United States, postal services get 22 percent of their revenues from personal banking services such as credit cards. But the practice ended decades ago in the U.S. Still, one professor who’s studied the USPS financial problems thinks management should consider the idea. Sheldon Garon of Princeton tells Federal News Radio, the Postal Service ought to sell mutual funds and even small loans. But a Postal spokesman said the United States has enough banks already. (Federal News Radio)
  • Several senators think the Pentagon is acting like an ostrich and they want to pull its head out of the sand. The issue is sequestration and what would happen if the military is hit by across-the-board budget cuts. Pentagon leaders have no formal plans for sequestration. They believe it will never actually happen. But Rep. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) wants to force the issue. She promised to attach an amendment to, as she put it, every bill that walks. She promised to get the sequestration plans out of the Defense Department line by line. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said planning for sequestration would be applying rational thinking to the irrational. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration’s contract to train air-traffic controllers is running out of money and one lawmaker wants an explanation. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) sent a letter to the FAA, noting that funding will run dry in August, more than a year before the contract is supposed to end. McCaskill said the money crunch might force the FAA to extend the deal without studying the costs or new training needs. The FAA has paid the provider, Raytheon, at least $46 million more than expected. (Senate)
  • With only 23 days to work until the end of the fiscal year, Congress is running out of time to pass critical bills. Still unfinished is the Hill’s work on the 2013 budget, Postal Service reform and cybersecurity. The calendar contains 96 days until Oct. 1, but Congress doesn’t work Mondays, Fridays, weekends or holidays. Plus it has recesses scheduled for August. The House has passed six appropriations bills, with four more out of committee awaiting debate. Senate committees have passed nine spending bills, but none have passed the full chamber. The Senate passed FDA reauthorization yesterday. (Federal News Radio)
  • It may be getting easier for military spouses to have careers despite moving from base to base. First Lady Michelle Obama launched a campaign four months ago to end this long-standing problem for military families. Yesterday, Illinois became the 23rd state to enact a law recognizing professional licenses that spouses have earned in other states. Nurses, teachers and other professionals who require licenses to practice have had difficulty keeping up their career when they move around so often. The White House estimated that 100,000 spouses serve in professions that required state licenses. (White House)
  • According to an inspector general report, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko bullied and intimidated fellow commissioners and employees. The report concluded Jaczko created a tense working environment and was particularly intimidating to women. The IG named 15 instances of bullying behavior. It also said Jazcko was correct in seeing last year’s Japanese nuclear disaster as a threat to the United States. IG Hubert Bell reported Jazcko tried to keep fellow commissioners informed during the crisis, but he attempted to control the flow of information. Jazcko has announced his retirement, pending confirmation of a successor. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal corrections officers are patrolling with pepper spray for the first time. The Bureau of Prisons is easing up on a no-weapons policy because of rising violence in detention centers. McClatchy Newspapers reported that several states have let their guards carry pepper spray for years, but the feds have long resisted. Managers have worried that inmates could grab the spray and use it against the officers. But the 2008 murder of a guard in California helped change officials’ minds. Just seven federal prisons have instituted the policy. (McClatchy Newspapers)
  • Two local congressmen want to overhaul the Senior Executive Service. Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) have introduced legislation that would change the pay scale to benefit the top career feds. SES members’ performance awards and bonuses would count toward their retirement pay. It would also limit the number of political appointees who could crowd out career feds for top positions. But it stops short of requiring SES members to move from agency to agency throughout their careers, a controversial idea that Moran has supported. There’s a similar bill in the Senate. (Federal News Radio)