Wednesday morning federal headlines – Sept. 5, 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.

  • Agriculture Department inspectors are challenging the agency’s decision to send them to Mexico. The veterinarians and animal health technicians say it’s too dangerous. USDA wants them to inspect cattle before they reach the United States. But the inspectors’ union said the workers could do their jobs at ports of entry in Texas. The agency said risks were minimal in those parts of Mexico, but local contacts told the inspectors that there was too much violence. Inspectors who refused to work in the new facility could be disciplined and even fired. (Federal News Radio)
  • As the Democratic convention takes center stage, the administration is touting savings by federal agencies. They saved more than $4 billion during the first two quarters of fiscal 2012, according to acting budget director Jeff Zients. In a blog post, he said agencies are likely to meet the goal of $8 billion in savings by the end of fiscal 2013. He credited what he calls innovative management practices. In one case, the Agriculture Department reduced its roster of cell phones and saved nearly $5 million. The Social Security Administration saved vehicle fleet costs. But in a survey by the Government Business Council published today, federal managers gave themselves only a gentleman’s *C* in cost-cutting. (Federal News Radio/GovExec)
  • Today it’s the Democrats’ turn to reveal plans for the federal workforce should President Obama be re-elected. But the platform is short on new details. It states the administration’s desire to rethink, reform and remake the government. It reiterates efforts to trim regulations. And it repeats the President’s proposal to reorganize business and trade-related agencies to reduce redundancy. Last week, the Republican platform called for a 10 percent reduction in the size of the federal workforce. Former President Bill Clinton will nominate President Obama for re-election. Reinventing government was the signature management initiative of the Clinton administration. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Pentagon’s real estate expert is taking a spotlight role at the General Services Administration. The GSA has named Dorothy Robyn its new Public Building Services commissioner. GSA leaders are hoping Robyn can revitalize the division in the wake of spending scandals. As the Defense Department’s deputy undersecretary for installations and the environment, she led the Pentagon through its latest Base Realignment and Closure round. Robyn moved the Pentagon toward more energy-efficient planning and development. (Federal News Radio)
  • Government auditors have dealt a blow to the Health and Human Services Department’s plan to loosen its welfare-to-work requirements. The Government Accountability Office said the agency must seek Congress’ approval if it wants to make the program more flexible. HHS wants to waive parts of the law for states that move at least 20 percent more people from welfare to work within a year. The agency had claimed that it had the authority to do so. But GAO said the change was so broad that the department must propose a rule and submit it to Congress. (GAO)
  • Congress won’t return until next week, but negotiators have been working on a promised budget bill. Aides said they were close to finishing a six-month continuing resolution for members to vote on. It would fund the government at 2012 levels through March. Both parties want to make sure that disaster money is available for victims of Hurricane Isaac. They want to avoid a repeat of last year’s stalemate when disaster relief funds nearly ran dry. A spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he was not aware of any hiccups in developing the CR. (Federal News Radio)
  • A sexual discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the Homeland Security Department is likely to be settled out of court. The case has led to the resignation of Suzanne Barr, the chief of staff of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In the suit, James Hayes said Barr ran ICE like a frat house and humiliated male employees. Hayes is seeking $4 million in damages. His lawyer now says a federal magistrate judge will mediate the case in Washington, and that the Justice Department agreed to mediation. Two other male employees have made similar claims. Barr has denied the allegations. (Federal News Radio)
  • Telework is a $7 million expense at the General Services Administration. CNN reported the agency spent more than that over the past four years on travel expenses for employees who work at home. About 380 GSA workers participate in the virtual employee program. Even though they work outside the office all of the time, most of them still travel to conferences, meetings and other official functions. The program lets the agency free up office space and save on real estate costs. GSA is reviewing it as part of a full investigation of its spending. (CNN)