Monday morning federal headlines – Oct. 1, 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.

  • In one of its last acts before recessing, the House has voted to expand protections for federal whistleblowers. The bill would make it easier to punish supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers. It would grant specific protections for government scientists and airport screeners. And it would close gaps in whistleblower protection stemming from court rulings. The bill has to go back to the Senate for final action. But both chambers have already agreed on its provisions. (Federal News Radio)
  • One in eight federal employees say they’ve observed violence at work. They’ve seen attacks, threats, harassment, intimidation and bullying at their agencies. The Merit Systems Protection Board surveyed federal workers and found most perpetrators were current or former feds themselves. Despite the statistics, most respondents said agency security measures made them feel safe, especially from outsiders. But agencies could do a better job of preventing violence from people within the organizations. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama signed a law delaying parts of the STOCK Act. Civil servants affected by the law will not have to post personal financial information online until Dec. 8. But there’s no delay for members of Congress, the president and vice president, or cabinet officials. The legislation called on the National Academy of Public Administration to study how online finance information will affect career federal managers. The NAPA report is due in six months. The STOCK act covers some 28,000 members of the Senior Executive Service and congressional staff members. It’s designed to prevent insider trading by federal officials. (Federal News Radio)
  • Regulators say the Postal Service may be rushing to close facilities and cut service without accurate estimates of cost savings. The Postal Regulatory Commission said the agency may save just over $500 million by merging mail processing centers. The Postal Service is expecting three times that amount. Why the difference? The Postal Service said it could become 20 percent more productive. Regulators said that was remarkably ambitious and risky. The commission also said the agency needed to slow down changes in mail delivery times or it could lose customers and even more money. (Postal Regulatory Commission)
  • The White House is telling contractors not to warn their employees of possible layoffs from sequestration. It reinforced an earlier directive from the Labor Department. But this time, it included a sweetener. The administration said agencies will cover contractor costs related to terminated contracts if sequestration occured and employees have not been warned. Contractors would be reimbursed for legal fees and employee compensation. Federal law requires companies to warn employees of impending mass layoffs. But the administration has argued, sequestration isn’t a sure enough bet to trigger the warnings. (Federal News Radio)
  • The government’s ability to spy on Americans may be at risk. In the Supreme Court term that begins today, justices will hear a challenge to the latest version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The law lets the intelligence community eavesdrop on conversations without obtaining a warrant. Officials said it’s a powerful tool against terrorism. But opponents, including journalists and human rights activists, said the law is unconstitutional. They’ll argue later this month that Americans have been hurt by it. The House has voted to extend the law another five years. The Senate is expected to take it up after the presidential election. (Federal News Radio)