Friday morning federal headlines – Sept. 28, 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 National Park Service has named a contractor to repair the Washington Monument. The company is a subsidiary of Perini, which built the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington, D.C. The nearly $10 million project requires scaffolding around the monument for at least a year. It’s going up in about two months. Perini will fix the stonework that was damaged by last year’s earthquake. It will seal cracks and strengthen the tower with metal brackets. Including work already done, the total cost of repairs will be $15 million. Half of that is federal money. A local businessman has donated the rest. (Federal News Radio)
  • A former Postal Service executive has pleaded guilty to embezzlement. David Kosturko filed expense forms for $17,000 in travel reimbursements from the agency. As the agency’s assistant treasurer, Kosturko traveled often. He paid his expenses with an agency charge card. Prosecutors said he would book multiple airline tickets for the same trip, travel on the cheaper flight, but tell the Postal Service he had taken the more expensive one. They say he did this 35 times in recent years. Kosturko faces up to five years in prison. (Justice Department)
  • The Justice Department’s use of electronic eavesdropping has climbed by 64 percent since 2009. The American Civil Liberties Union requested those figures under a Freedom of Information Act request. Law enforcement use of monitoring devices rose sharply, to nearly 38,000 cases in 2011. Devices used include pen registers, which record numbers dialed from a phone, and trap-and-tracers, which record inbound phone numbers. Also on the rise are court orders allowing monitoring of email and other network communications. Justice said all of the activities listed required a court order. (Federal News Radio)
  • A federal judge said the government can stop lobbyists from serving on federal commissions. Six lobbyists had sought to overturn the Obama administration’s ban so they could serve on industry-trade advisory boards. Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed their lawsuit against the Commerce Department. She said the lobbyists could not prove that the ban violated their First Amendment rights. In the ruling, she said serving on a federal advisory board is not the same as a tax exemption or unemployment benefits. (U.S. Courts)
  • It’s time to get your flu shots. Federal health clinics will offer the vaccines for free to feds. The treasury inspector general for tax administration has found, federal agencies owed the Internal Revenue Service that much in payroll withholdings for Social Security and Medicare. The IG urged the IRS to boost efforts to get agencies to pay their taxes on time. The IRS said agency delinquency has been steadily falling. In 2005, agencies were more than $400 million in arrears. (Federal News Radio)
  • Three members of Congress are asking the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to look into data center power consumption. They cite a New York Times article detailing instances of wasteful electricity use at large commercial data centers. They mailed their request to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) want to know how the agencies are carrying out a section of the Energy Independence and Security Act. It tasks Energy and EPA to establish voluntary standards for data center efficiency. Industry estimates say that in 2010, data centers consumed two percent of all electricity used in the United States. (Federal News Radio)
  • NASA said it’s got new proof that water once ran on Mars. The Curiosity Rover has found the remains of an old stream bed. It is sending back images of rocks and gravel. Scientists said, based on the size of the stones, the stream could have been hip deep. They said water moved at 3 feet per second. The rover is trying to find signs of life on Mars and water is a prerequisite for life. (NASA)