Thursday federal headlines – Aug. 9

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 Internal Revenue Service has been rubber-stamping taxpayer ID applications instead of screening for fraud. A new study by the Tax inspector general says the practice risks billions in improper payments and also has national security implications. The IDs are available to non-citizens who must file tax returns but can’t get a Social Security Number. Inspector General J. George Russell, says IRS employees are encouraged to process as many applications as possible. His report says IRS stopped using proven anti-fraud procedures. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Justice Department has appointed a former prosecutor to focus on whistleblower complaints. Robert Storch will work in the inspector general’s office. As ombudsman, Storch will educate employees about the importance of whistleblowers to uncover waste, fraud and abuse. Storch became counselor to IG Michael Horowitz in July. He’s been a federal prosecutor for 25 years. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Census Bureau wants to revise its survey forms to update language about race. New surveys would treat Hispanics as a distinct category regardless of race. Surveys would no longer use the word Negro. And they would offer new ways to let Middle Easterners identify themselves. Census already experimented with the new forms during the 2010 Census by sending them to 500,000 households. Agency officials say the results suggest the new forms give higher response rates and more accuracy. (Federal News Radio)
  • Seventy-four of 99 agencies released documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act at least 90 percent of the time. Only four agencies released information less than 69 percent of the time. These were among the key findings in the Justice Department’s 2012 FOIA report released Aug. 7. Justice measures 99 agencies which fall under FOIA across 14 areas, including processing simple requests in fewer than 20 days, technology support of the FOIA process and decreasing their backlog of requests. A majority of the agencies say they decreased both their request and appeal backlogs in 2010 and 2011. For example, the Department of State decreased their backlog ny 66 percent. (Justice Department)
  • Help is now available for agencies to make sure their PDF documents can be read by people with disabilities. The Veterans Health Administration is providing online training to explain portable document format, known as PDFs, accessibility barriers and ways to fix them. The step-by-step directions and instructional videos helps agencies improve the real-world accessibility of PDF documents, how to ensure PDF documents comply with the Section 508 standards and make their content available to their entire audience. Among the 14 training courses, agencies can better understand how to use color in an accessible way and how to hide non-meaningful content. (
  • A new report by a government watchdog group is questioning the real impact sequestration would have on defense contractors. The Project on Government Oversight reviewed the workforce size of five of the largest defense contractors and found three of the five were reducing their staffs while the Defense Department’s procurement budget ballooned between 2006 and 2011.(Project on Government Oversight)
  • Vendors have a few extra weeks to tell the General Services Administration how cloud brokerage services will work. GSA extended the request for information deadline to Sept. 7. The RFI asks agencies to answer 22 questions about how a cloud brokerage service would work for agencies. A cloud brokerage similar to an insurance broker or car broker would aggregate subcontractors who provide cloud services such as email or storage and help agencies integrate those technologies or provide advice for how best to use them. (GSA)
  • It hasn’t gone viral, but a new You Tube video (watch below) is how the administration’s outgoing regulations chief sums up his tenure. Cass Sunstein has been running the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. In a kind of farewell lecture, Sunstein gives a brief history of regulatory activity going back to the Clinton administration. He uses a white board and cartoon illustrations to make his points. Sunstein says the Obama administration has written fewer rules than Clinton or George W. Bush. But he says the economic benefits of the rules, at $90 billion, dwarfs previous administrations. Sunstein heads back to Harvard Law School.