Thursday morning federal headlines – July 12, 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 Office of Personnel Management wants to automate the way agencies collect statistics about telework. It hopes to answer concerns about quality of the data. OPM will pilot a data-gathering system ahead of next June’s telework report to Congress. If it works, OPM will make the system governmewide by the summer of 2014. Justin Johnson, OPM’s deputy chief of staff, said that during the pilot, OPM will compare data coming in from the new and traditional methods. The GAO has speculated the levels of federal telework are overstated. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Justice Department and the FBI will review thousands of criminal convictions going back more than 10 years. They’re hunting for flawed laboratory analysis of hair samples. Officials are looking at cases where hair analysis resulted in a conviction. In April, a series of Washington Post stories detailed how flawed lab work led to the overturning of two convictions. Justice is partnering with the Innocence Project, a private group, to provide a third-party assessment of the review. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is also joining the effort. (Federal News Radio)
  • A member of Congress has launched another crusade against federal spending on conferences. This time it’s the National Institute of Standards and Technology. But Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) apparently got her facts wrong. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Adams claims NIST spent $34 million over five years on conferences for its Manufacturing Extension Partnership. But NIST produced documents showing it only spent one-tenth of that amount, $3.4 million. NIST officials said the program and its conferences were partially underwritten by industry partners. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
  • Get ready for cuts to the federal workforce, operations and grant programs. Office of Management and Budget Director Jeff Zients said that was what sequestration would do. Writing in Politico, Zients said OMB was just starting to analyze how the automatic 8 percent cut to domestic spending would hit the government. Congress has been demanding reports from OMB. Zients said he couldn’t give that information until lawmakers provided funding for fiscal year 2013. That was because the cuts would happen in January, about a quarter into that fiscal year. But Zients said NIH would award about 700 fewer grants to medical researchers, the Agriculture Department would slash safety inspections and FBI agents would lose jobs. (Politico)
  • DARPA is getting a new director. Arati Prabhakar, a veteran of federal research, starts July 30. That’s according to a Defense Department memo obtained by Wired magazine’s dangeroom blog. Prabhakar has had a varied career. Her family came to the United States from India when she was 3. She has a Ph.D. in physics from Caltech. She headed the National Institute of Standards and Technology during the Clinton Administration. Prabhakar also had a 10-year stint at a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. In March she joined the board of contractor SRI International. (Wired)
  • Fat chance Congress will pass a bill this summer to help the Postal Service. House leaders have decided to postpone a vote despite protests from the agency and the Senate. The House Oversight Committee has approved legislation that would create a panel. It would have the power to reshape the Postal Service’s network, like the Base Realignment and Closure Commission does for the military. The Postal Service is supposed to pay $5.5 billion to the Treasury in August for pension costs. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said the agency will have to default in the absence of a law granting a reprieve. (Federal News Radio)