Thursday morning federal headlines – Sept. 6, 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 Federal Aviation Administration is trying to find out if two managers violated the Hatch Act. The transparency group Cause of Action is urging the inspector general to investigate. The group said the managers in Seattle told employees that if Republicans win the November elections the agency would face budget cuts, but if Democrats win there would be no big changes. Employees at the meeting said it felt like a threat. The Hatch Act prohibits feds from engaging in political activity in the workplace. (Cause of Action)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is facing claims that it fired two scientists at a Georgia lab for trying to organize a union. The American Federation of Government Employees began attempts to unionize the Ecosystems Research Division in March. AFGE said the agency had problems with the two scientists, but the timing of their firing was suspicious. They lost their jobs in mid-August, just two weeks before employees received union ballots. AFGE has filed charges with the Federal Labor Relations Authority. EPA said it does not publicly discuss personnel matters. (Federal News Radio)
  • The CIA is facing fresh accusations of waterboarding. Human Rights Watch is revealing new claims based on documents and interviews it recently obtained in Libya. It said agency operatives used waterboarding in Afghanistan nine years ago. The report also included information about Washington’s close cooperation with the regime of Libya’s former dictator Moammar Gadhafi in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It comes days after the Justice Department said it would not bring criminal charges against CIA personnel over their interrogation methods. That wrapped up a three-year agency investigation. (Human Rights Watch)
  • More federal employees filed retirement claims in August than at any time in the last seven months. The Office of Personnel Management said more than 8,900 workers decided to leave federal service. Even with this increase in claims, OPM said the retirement claims backlog continued to shrink. The backlog is now 32 percent lower now than it was in January. (Federal News Radio)
  • Army contracting officers should expect some new tools in the coming year. The Army Contracting Command is leading an effort to develop a new contract writing system. Gino Magnifico is the contracting command’s chief information officer. He said the working group is almost done with an analysis of alternatives. After that, they will move into the acquisition planning process. (Federal News Radio)
  • Bakersfield, Calif.; Beulah, N.D.; and Watertown, N.Y., are among the 10 cities that now receive non-standard federal per diem rates. The General Services Administration has increased the rates for these 10 cities based on research over the last year. GSA last month froze per diem rates for standard cities for all 2013 at current levels. (Federal News Radio)