Wednesday morning federal headlines – Sept. 12, 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 House has released a stopgap spending measure that freezes federal pay for another six months. While it has been widely discussed, it’s now in black and white. The continuing resolution runs through the end of March. It funds agencies at slightly above fiscal 2012 levels, while giving lawmakers more time to pass budget bills. The National Treasury Employees Union says it will push Congress to include a retroactive pay raise in those spending bills. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration is centralizing critical functions so that leaders can keep better tabs on spending. That means consolidating three chief information officer offices into one and making the chief people officer responsible for all human resources. Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini is set to present these reforms in his testimony before the Senate today. Inspector General Brian Miller also is expected to testify at the hearing…entitled “moving from scandal to strategy.” (Federal News Radio)
  • Hiring back retirees to help out on critical business may seem like a great idea. Afterall, they’ve got the expertise. But few agencies are taking advantage of a recent law that lets them rehire retirees and pay them both their full pensions and full salaries. The Government Accountability Office looked closely at six agencies. It found even the Office of Personnel Management barely used the so-called “dual compensation” waiver. The Treasury Department made the most use of the tool to rehire IRS agents. (Federal News Radio)

    Note: GAO’s Chris Mihm will talk more about what agencies should be doing when he joins The Federal Drive tomorrow morning.

  • Senior Libyan officials are reporting that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in a rocket attack on the consulate in Benghazi. They also say three other consulate employees were killed. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called for increased security not only in that country but elsewhere in the world. She says some are trying to justify the attack as a response to inflammatory material on the Internet. Protesters burned down the Benghazi consulate in anger over a film that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad. It was produced by an Israeli filmmaker living in California. In Egypt, protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy and replaced the American flag with an Islamic banner.
  • The IRS has awarded a former federal prisoner $104 million for his part in uncovering a widespread tax evasion scheme. Bradley Birkenfeld takes the payout. The former UBS banker helped the IRS find thousands of Americans who set up secret overseas accounts to avoid taxes. The government fined UBS $780 million. In the same case, Birkenfeld had served nearly three years behind bars for helping a former client hide his wealth from tax collectors. His lawyer says the payout is the largest ever government whistleblower award. (Federal News Radio)
  • A bill to get better customer service out of agencies has sailed through the House. The measure would require the White House to set governmentwide standards. And each agency would appoint a service improvement officer to monitor progress. It heads to the Senate where a similar bill is pending. That one would would set up a tiger team to shape up agencies that fail to meet the standards. It targets the Office of Personnel Management’s retirement services in particular. Federal retirees have complained for years about waiting times and poor customer service there.
  • The Air Force has started operational utility evaluations on the F-35-A joint strike fighter. The tests will last about 65 days. They’ll measure the effectiveness of F-35 pilot training and flight simulations. The Air Force says the evaluations will set the standard for larger training programs for airmen and U.S. allies. (Air Force)
  • Senior Republicans are trying to stop the Department of Health and Human Services from waiving provisions of the welfare-to-work law. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch say they will use a special manuever to get around Democrats. They plan to call for a simple majority vote in the Senate, rather than try to get the 60 votes needed for most legislation. HHS wants to amend the rules to encourage states to try new ways of getting welfare recipients to work. But the Government Accountability Office says that amounts to a new regulation, which is subject to Congressional approval. (Federal News Radio)
  • The government has settled with two whistleblowers at the center of an infamous gun tracking operation. Larry Alt and Olindo “Lee” Casa blew the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious at the Justice Department. They claimed retaliation by their home agency — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Office of Special Counsel won’t say what the settlement involves. Another whistleblower settled with ATF last month. (Office of Special Counsel)