Thursday morning federal headlines – Sept. 13, 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 General Services Administration is receiving praise for its reform efforts. Senators say the agency is on the right track with a plan to bring power and oversight back to headquarters and away from regional offices. The strategy will centralize IT and human resources and reduce contracting fees. Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini launched the effort after news broke in the spring of wasteful spending at the Western Regions conference. Lawmakers hailed GSA’s efforts in a Wednesday Senate hearing. The positive tone is a far cry from criticism and tough questions the agency has faced in House hearings. (Federal News Radio)
  • In a rush to award disability benefits, the Social Security Administration is failing to review applications. Senate Republicans have accused the agency of focusing on speed rather than quality. Social Security has a huge backlog of disability claims. It expects administrative law judges to rule on at least 500 cases a year. Senate investigators found in a quarter of the cases they reviewed the judges failed to cite a medical reason for awarding benefits. Several of those judges will testify before a Senate subcommittee today. (Federal News Radio)
  • A National Institutes of Health doctor who has led groundbreaking AIDS research is the Federal Employee of the Year. The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service will honor Lynne Mofenson at a dinner tonight. She focuses her research on preventing children from inheriting HIV from their mothers. She said she follows her father’s work ethic: “It isn’t necessarily who is the smartest, it is who works the hardest.” (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Special Counsel is accusing an agency leader of violating the Hatch Act. It said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius crossed the line in a February speech. She was on duty when she urged people at a Human Rights Campaign gala to vote for President Barack Obama. Sebelius says OSC was wrong. She reclassified the speech as a political event, which political appointees are allowed to attend. The Obama presidential campaign reimbursed the government for the travel costs. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees, including political appointees, from politicking while on the job. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House is expected to pass a measure today to keep the government funded for six more months. The continuing resolution increases the federal budget by $19 billion compared with a House GOP plan. Overall, it’s a 0.6 percent raise in government spending. Tea party Republicans oppose any increase, but some said they could be in a better bargaining position when the CR ends. The Senate is expected to pass the bill next week. Then members will once again leave Washington and hit the campaign trail. (Federal News Radio)
  • Just one day remains for voting in the first People’s Choice Award at Health and Human Services. HHS is asking the public to vote on employee projects for innovation within the department and health care. Finalists’ projects range from a little box that can sniff out coal mines for explosive dust accumulations to a food sanitation training course. Voting ends on Friday. (HHS)
  • Budget pressure takes its toll on recruiting. That’s what more than seven in 10 chief human capital officers said in a Federal News Radio survey. At least one agency said it can’t recruit employees in a timely manner. It was leaving leaving positions vacant longer. The problem is made worse by a growing number of employees retiring. (Federal News Radio)