Monday morning federal headlines – Oct. 22, 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 Salary Council has added a new chapter to an ongoing story about the federal pay gap. The council used Bureau of Labor Statistics data to say federal employees earn 34 percent less than their private sector counterparts. The council said that was up 8 percentage points compared to last year. But pay gaps seem to depend on whose data you use and who is doing the figuring. A Congressional Budget Office study in January found federal employees make slightly more than their private sector counterparts. The Federal Salary Council makes recommendations to the President’s Pay Agent. In 2010, President Obama froze federal salaries for two years. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Transportation Security Administration is firing 25 employees at Newark Liberty International Airport and suspending 19 others. The agency said the employees were not screening checked luggage properly. The job actions result from surveillance videos showing employees failing to look inside luggage that had been tagged for inspection. Eight employees were fired in June on the same grounds. The Newark moves make it the largest disciplinary action taken by TSA at a U.S. airport. The American Federation of Government Employees, which recently began representing TSA screeners, is likely to appeal. (Federal News Radio)
  • Two sailors are expected to receive administrative punishments in connection with a prostitution scandal at the Secret Service. The pair won’t be criminally charged. But they will be sanctioned for hiring prostitutes to come into the hotel used for a presidential visit to Colombia earlier this year and for dereliction of duty for drinking within eight hours of reporting for duty. Seven soldiers and two marines have already been punished over the affair, and one member of the Air Force was cleared. A lawyer for one of the sailors has argued that his client, David Hawley, was not around at the time the prostitutes were solicited. (Federal News Radio)
  • It’s out with BlackBerries and in with iPhones for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE plans to end its eight-year relationship with BlackBerry purveyor Research in Motion. NextGov reported ICE plans to acquire iPhones for 17,000 employees. While acknowledging the security inherent in BlackBerry devices, ICE officials said the rest of the software was inadequate for the agency’s mobility needs. ICE found Apple software to be sufficiently secure. It found Google Android to be not secure enough. Apple got high marks for market viability. Research in Motion is struggling as the BlackBerry market share worldwide has plunged into the single digits. (NextGov)
  • The Broadcasting Board of Governors is offering buyouts and early retirement packages to nearly 300 employees. Eligible workers will have to apply within three weeks and leave by the end of the year. The agency is targeting employees who will be eligible for retirement by the end of this fiscal year. A spokeswoman told Government Executive the Broadcasting Board of Governors wants to minimize any harm that could be done by budget cuts. It’s also a chance for the agency to get new skills to meet its mission. She said BBG expected about 50 people will take the offer. (NextGov)
  • Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has a new job at a private law firm. He’ll be based in the Chicago office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom. The Wall Street Journal reported that Fitzgerald will focus on civil and criminal investigation, and will also run internal investigation for corporate clients. As U.S. Attorney, Fitzgerald was known as an anti-corruption crusader. He prosecuted cases against Scooter Libby, members of al-Qaida and the Gambino crime family, plus two Illinois governors. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The meningitis outbreak is renewing scrutiny on Medicare’s compounding drugs policies. Medicare has flagged compounded drugs, produced without federal oversight, as safety risks. It even revoked coverage five years ago of a compounded drug used to treat lung disease. But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) suggested Medicare hasn’t done so consistently. He wants to know how often the agency denies payments for compounded drugs. The meningitis outbreak has been linked to a compounded steroid produced at a Massachusetts pharmacy. (Federal News Radio)