Wednesday morning federal headlines – Aug. 22, 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.

  • A federal appeals court has struck down a critical protection for large numbers of federal workers. It concerns people holding non-critical but sensitive positions. The court said if they’re demoted or fired, they’re not entitled to have a review by the Merit Systems Protection Board. One judge dissented on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. That judge said the ruling effectively nullifies the 1978 civil service law which established the MSPB. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Management and Budget looked at all the 2013 spending bills stuck in Congress. Acting Budget Director Jeff Zients said if they all pass, the White House will have to do a little sequestering of its own. That’s because the bills add up to more spending than allowed by last year’s Budget Control Act. The law allows OMB to cut enacted budgets if they’re too fat. That’s an alternative to the more famous, 10-year sequester which happens if there is no Congressional deal. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agriculture Department managers who shut down a slaughterhouse are checking to see if its inspectors were doing their duty. The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service received a graphic video of sick cattle being slaughtered at Central Valley Meat Company in Hartford, California. It ordered the company to cease operations. Regulations prohibit sick or injured animals from being used for human food. The inspectors are not seen on the video, prompting the USDA to look into their whereabouts. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Obama told Congress he is going to order a small pay increase for federal employees. But the raise won’t take place until next spring at the earliest. And it will be a modest raise, averaging 0.5 percent. In a letter, the president says federal employees have already sacrificed under a two-year pay freeze. But Congressional leadership has promised a six-month continuing resolution instead of a new 2013 budget. So the president would extend the freeze until after the CR, or April 2013. In response, the American Federation of Government Employees has urged a freeze on health care premiums. (Federal News Radio)
  • The State Department has cancelled plans to buy Amazon Kindles and distribute them to embassies worldwide. The agency said it plans to do more market research and re-examine its requirements. It had announced the $16.5 million contract in June. At the time, the department said only the Kindle would do. It would not consider Apple’s iPad because it had a shorter battery life and additional features. The State Department said those presented too many security risks. It wanted to use the e-readers in English-language classes and other activities for six million young people overseas. (FedBizOpps)
  • The head of the Peace Corps is stepping down. Aaron Williams is quitting after three years at the top of the agency. In a letter to President Obama, Williams cites personal and family considerations. The Peace Corps said he ushered in stronger safety and security measures, including hiring a victim advocate to support volunteers in the field. But Williams’ tenure was marked by a sexual assault scandal and claims that the agency fostered a culture of blaming the victim. Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet will serve as the acting director after Williams leaves next month. (Peace Corps)
  • Wildland firefighters are paving a path for other part-time feds to get health insurance. The government agreed last month to cover firefighters. In a new fact sheet, the Office of Personnel Management said agencies can request the same benefits for temporary employees performing related services. That could include forestry technicians, dispatchers and others who are helping fight fires out West. OPM said agencies should make a request based on what the employee does rather than on their job description. It said agencies also need to consider the size and scope of the disaster and the number of temps it needs to respond. (
  • A board that will help implement a nationwide broadband network has gotten off the ground. The Commerce Department has announced the 12 members of the First Responder Network Authority. Dubbed First Net, it includes experts in public safety, technology and finance. They will help guide a $7 billion effort to build the type of network that emergency personnel needed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Former Vodaphone chairman Sam Ginn will lead the board. Commerce named Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and former Defense Department Chief Information Officer Teri Takai as members. (Commerce Department)