Wednesday morning federal headlines – June 6, 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.

  • John Gage, the president of the largest federal- employee union, is retiring. He has been at the helm of the American Federal Government Employees union since 2003. In a letter to union members, he called his tenure “challenging but invigorating years.” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called Gage “a tireless defender of our nation’s public servants.” Gage plans to stay for about 10 more weeks, while the AFGE finishes its first contract with the Transportation Security Administration. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Congressional Budget Office has taken a new look at the nation’s mounting debt and it’s not a pretty picture. If Congress does nothing, in another generation the debt will be twice the size of the U.S. economy. If it let the Bush-era tax cuts expire and sequestration occur in January, a new recession would occur. But CBO said eventually the debt would shrink as a percentage of gross domestic product. (Federal News Radio)
  • Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said he was glad Housing and Urban Development is reining in salaries at state and municipal housing agencies. But he wanted more details on who gets paid what. Grassley asked the Obama administration to post the compensation of top housing officials online. Grassley told HUD secretary Shaun Donovan, he wanted the department to be more transparent. The pay cap came after a HUD survey found two public housing directors had earned more than $600,000 in a single year. Now the federal government will reimburse no more than $155,000. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Transportation Security Administration has fired five workers and suspended another 38 at a southwest Florida airport in one of the biggest disciplinary actions in the agency’s 10 years. TSA said the screeners and supervisors failed to perform random security checks. The agency said during two months last year, as many as 400 passengers never got those supplemental screenings. TSA said travelers’ safety was not at risk, but the random checks were part of the agency’s plan to focus on the riskiest passengers. The workers represent about 15 percent of the TSA employees at the Fort Myers airport. Critics in Congress called the incident a “meltdown.” (Federal News Radio)
  • Agency spending pressures have sparked a growing number of labor disputes. Julia Akins Clark, general counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, said that in the rush to cut spending and reorganize, federal managers occasionally violate bargaining agreements. Clark said most of the complaints claim unfair labor practices. Many of them come from the Defense Department because it has the largest number of bargaining units. Both line workers and managers are eligible to file complaints with the FLRA. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Service Administration’s long-awaited cloud computing certification office is open for business. It received the green light from the Office of Management and Budget yesterday. It’s job is to make sure cloud computing vendors have good cybersecurity. Katie Lewin, program manager for cloud computing at GSA, said actually certifying vendors would take another six months. GSA, Homeland Security and the Defense Department form the board that examines and approves cloud providers. (Federal News Radio)
  • Congress may have struck down the Paycheck Fairness Act again, but there’s something else women can do if they want more equal pay — work for the government. A 2009 Government Accountability Office report said that female federal workers make 89 cents to male feds’ dollar. That was compared to a national rate of only 77 cents. And last year, the Office of Personnel Management and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a memo that said it planned “the most rigorous possible enforcement” of equal pay laws as they applied to federal workers. (Washington Post)
  • While your neighborhood post office may not be bustling with activity, some say it’s a national treasure worth holding onto. It may be in danger of disappearing. The Postal Service wants to close thousands of small, mostly rural post offices. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has put post offices on its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. It said there were groups that wanted to rehabilitate the buildings, but they gave up when faced with red tape. The non-profit said the Postal Service needed a clear, consistent process that followed federal preservation laws when disposing of these buildings. (
  • New numbers bolstered the Office of Personnel Management’s claim that it was trimming that giant backlog of retirement applications. The agency processed more than 9,000 cases in May, putting it slightly ahead of where it had expected to be. That left a backlog of just over 49,000. OPM said it would take a year and a half to wipe it completely away. Meanwhile, Federal Times reported newly published audits showed one in six retirement applications contained errors. OPM has been pushing agencies to make sure new retirees’ files were accurate. Last month, 7,500 federal workers retired. (Federal News Radio)