Monday morning federal headlines – Oct. 29, 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.

  • All D.C. area federal government buildings are closed to the public today due to Hurricane Sandy. Non-emergency employees will be granted an excused absence, but teleworkers and designated emergency personnel must still work today. New York federal buildings are also closed. Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess are closed in the D.C. metro area today and public transportation in the Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey have all suspended service. (Federal News Radio)
  • Think of how much money the government would save by ending duplication. The authors of a new report have thought about it. They say consolidating programs and killing redundant ones could save big bucks. The problem is politicians can’t agree to reorganize the government. The report, in the form of a memo to national leaders, comes from the American Society of Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration. Its principal author is Allen Lomax, a retired executive with the Government Accountability Office. He acknowledged that GAO has been harping on duplication for years. (ASPA/NAPA)
  • Former ambassadors say the State Department needs to boost hiring in a big way over the next four years. Three of them are behind a report from the Stimson Center’s American Academy of Diplomacy. The report says diplomats are taking on more responsibilities overseas, as the military retrenches and foreign-affairs agencies delve deeper into issues like economics and the environment. It says widespread vacancies have “hobbled” both State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. While the report applauds Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for making progress in hiring, it calls those gains “uneven.” It’s bottom line: people are more important that programs. (Stimson)
  • The Government Accountability Office is recommending that the Office of Personnel Management tighten up policies on time off for religious observance. GAO looked at the religious time off policies of seven agencies: Customs and Border Protection, FAA, FBI, Bureau of Prisons, Customs and Immigration Enforcement, TSA and IRS. It found inconsistencies in the way they administer the policies. Auditors found that CBP let employees convert unused religious time to regular compensatory time. That’s a no-no. GAO said some of the differences may be caused by lack of clarity in OPM guidance. (GAO)
  • The Internal Revenue Service has awarded $38 million to an anonymous whistleblower. The Wall Street Journal reports, the employee helped recover between $127 million and $254 million in corporate taxes. The whistleblower’s attorney would not name his client. But he said the company is among the 500 largest public corporations in the country. Scott Knott of the Ferraro Law Firm in Washington said the episode is evidence the whistleblower system at the IRS works. The agency maintained confidentiality of the whistleblower for the five years it took to resolve the case. The latest reward is the second largest since the IRS program took effect. Last summer, whistleblower Bradley Birkenfield got a $104 million award. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Almost all federal government offices have been shut down today, but the Supreme Court is open for business. Reuters reports, the court will hear arguments over a 2006 law allowing the government to monitor the overseas communications of individuals without getting a warrant. The government argues it needs the flexible surveillance power to prevent terrorist attacks. But a large group of attorneys, journalists and human rights organizations say millions of innocent Americans are likely being monitored for no justifiable reason. (Reuters)