Tuesday morning federal headlines – July 3, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air. Today’s news includes a senator objecting to the proliferation of federal websites and the Park Service attempting to cut tourist air traffic over the Grand Canyon.

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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The federal government is on its second day of a modified work schedule. Hundreds of thousands of people in greater Washington are still without electricity. Utilities say it will be Friday night before everyone is turned back on. Non emergency workers are asked to notify supervisors if they plan to use unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Emergency employees must report on time. The Defense Information Systems Agency at Fort Meade in Maryland is open today. The same policies apply. All DISA employees must let their supervisors know if they plan to telework. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Government Accountability Office has turned back a protest over a multibillion dollar TRICARE contract. TriWest HealthCare Alliance lost a bid in March to United Health Military and Veterans Services. TriWest protested, and said it would consider its options now that GAO has rejected its claim. The six-year contract was worth more than $20 billion and covered service members and families in the western region. TriWest still has the option to appeal to the to the court of federal claims. The Defense Department awarded three major contracts starting in 2009 for TRICARE. Losing bidders protested in all three cases. (Federal News Radio)
  • The new Stock Act meant to prevent insider-trading among lawmakers will hurt science. That’s the claim that federal researchers are making in a letter to lawmakers. The Assembly of Scientists represents National Institutes of Health researchers. It asked senators to repeal a section of the law that requires the government to post top career feds’ financial information online. It said the provision left employees open to cyber crimes and fraud. It said it discouraged scientists at universities from joining national labs. This letter followed a white paper from The Senior Executives Association that claimed the law unfairly snared government executives in a net meant for lawmakers and political appointees. (Federal News Radio)
  • Two powerful lawmakers think the Justice Department is intimidating whistleblowers. They want it to stop. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked the Justice inspector general to investigate. They wanted to know whether the department has effective whistleblower protections in place. Issa and Grassley referred to comments made earlier this year by Scott Thomasson, a public affairs official at Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They said Thomasson made negative comments about employees he supervises. They spoke publicly about the gun-walking operation known as Fast and Furious. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal employees who use mass-transit to get to work will have to dig a little deeper. The Transportation Bill Congress passed last week does not extend a tax deduction for users of public transportation. The deduction was worth $230 a month until the end of last year. It then dropped to $125 a month. The new bill, which the president is expected to sign this week, keeps the lower subsidy level. But a spokesman for the House Ways and Means Committee said it was possible Congress would reconsider raising it. One union estimated tens of thousands of federal workers are affected by the lower subsidy. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agencies are gearing up for another round of SAVE Awards. It will be the fourth year and the White House wants to make sure it doesn’t hear the same penny- pinching ideas over and over. It is encouraging agencies to use a three-star rating system to evaluate employees’ plans to save the government money. The Office of Management and Budget told agency chief financial officers that only compelling, practical and specific ideas should merit that top rating. OMB said it would announce deadlines for submissions later this month. Then the public will choose a winning idea from among the finalists. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House’s campaign to cut government waste could move a bit faster, according to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) He pointed to the proliferation of government websites. A year ago, President Barack Obama told agencies to slash the more-than-1,700 sites by half. But they have shut down just 300 sites, falling well short of that goal. In response, the White House told Government Executive that 600 more websites are on the chopping block. It also said the campaign has cut billions of dollars in contracting costs, data consolidation, fraud prevention and real-estate sales. Coburn asked the Congressional Research Service for an update on the other aspects of the waste-cutting initiative, but researchers found much of the data is only available to executive branch employees. (Sen. Tom Coburn)
  • If you’re headed to the Grand Canyon this summer, you might want to bring ear plugs. Not because of the roar of the water but because of the hum of the tourist planes and helicopters above. The National Park Service wants to restore tranquility, but it’s not getting help from Congress. Arizona and Nevada lawmakers have crafted legislation to stop the Park Service from imposing tougher noise standards. The agency had planned to issue final rules this month that would have limited “audible” aircraft to flying in just a third of the park most of the time. But USA Today reported the agency’s proposal could cost the tourism industry $120 million a year. The lawmakers’ bill would maintain the current, more lenient rules. (USA Today)