Friday federal headlines – Aug. 10, 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 Postal Service says it lost another $5.2 billion last quarter. That brings its red ink to more than $11 billion dollars so far this year. The agency says it will likely exhaust its credit line from the Treasury by the end of the year. Officials say the service has only about $500 million in cash left. USPS says it’s carefully prioritizing its cash after missing a $5 billion payment for future retirees’ healthcare last week. The agency says it desperately needs Congress to pass a postal reform bill. But top officials promise that no matter what, the cash crunch won’t impact mail delivery or checks to postal employees or suppliers. (Federal News Radio)
  • More than 4,100 career postmasters have taken a $20,000 buyout and early retirement. They represent 20 percent of all postmasters. The Federal Times reports that 3,800 are already gone, and the rest will leave by the end of September. A handful were not eligible to retire but took the buyout anyhow. The Postal Service announced the offer in May. Career postmasters who stay run the risk of layoffs after September 2014. (Federal Times)
  • One federal agency that (literally) touches half of all Americans gets pretty good ratings in a new poll. It’s the Transportation Security Administration, whose employees screen everyone getting on an airplane. A new Gallup poll finds 54 percent of Americans give TSA a score of good to excellent for conducting airport screening. Yet fewer than half, 41 percent, think TSA’s procedures are highly effective at preventing acts of terrorism. More than half of all Americans report climbing onto a plane at least once in the last year. Flyers and non-flyers have about the same opinion of TSA. (Gallup)
  • The Labor Department goofed by releasing a monthly jobs report one day early. The Wall Street Journal reports staff in the Employment and Training Administration were testing a software system. Apparently an operator accidentally hit the send button. The unemployment data came out Wednesday afternoon instead of Thursday morning. The Labor inspector general said the unit is reviewing what happened. A few traders caught the early data, but it doesn’t appear to have had much effect on securities markets. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The General Services Administration has rolled out a new airline discounts program. The agency says the City Pairs program for 2013 will save close to $6 billion. GSA says it negotiated new fares with all of the major domestic carriers. That yielded fixed rates for about 10,000 flights, down from 2012. City Pairs gives big discounts to federal employees flying on government business. Flyers can book, cancel or change flights at the last minute without penalties. But last-minute bookers will have to pay immediately. (General Services Administration)
  • The Agriculture Department launches a fresh effort to crack down on food stamp fraud. USDA is giving itself new powers to penalize retailers who traffic in food stamps. Now fraudsters can face both a fine and disqualification from the system. Plus, USDA will require states to use federal prison and death databases to insure only eligible people receive food stamps. In recent years, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, has grown into an $80 billion budget line-item. And 46 million people receive SNAP benefits. Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon says fraud now runs at less than 1 percent. (Federal News Radio)
  • A bipartisan pair of senators is calling on the Pentagon to debar United Technologies Corporation. Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are the chair and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. They sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, saying the company caused harm to national security. The letter was posted by the Center for Public Integrity. United Technologies pleaded guilty in June to violating the Arms Export Control Act. Its subsidiary, Pratt and Whitney Canada, sent software to China. China used the software to help develop a military helicopter. Pratt and Whitney wanted to sell engines for the helicopters. (iWatchNews)