Monday morning federal headlines – Oct. 8, 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.

  • Federal retirement applications are on the rise. The Office of Personnel Management reported receiving nearly 12,000 claims in September. It expected 7,000. It’s the third month in a row claims have run higher then the OPM forecast. Still, the agency said it was making headway in reducing its applications backlog. Staff was processing more than 12,000 per month. OPM said new retirees can now expect to receive their first full annuity check in 60 days, down from 150 days. Officials predicted they’ll eliminate the backlog by late next year. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Information Systems Agency is expanding an experiment with mobile devices. It has signed contracts with Verizon and AT&T to provide 1,100 new smartphones and tablets from Apple and Samsung. DISA said the device makers meet the Defense Department’s security needs, and both provide the technical means to let DISA manage and track them. DISA officials said they expected to eventually provide secure, commercial mobile devices to 1 million DoD users. It planned to test the devices it was buying now to see how well they work with their respective carriers under DISA’s strict security regime. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agencies face stricter rules for government charge cards under a new law. It requires agencies to create safeguards for detecting and stopping unauthorized purchases. Managers must run credit checks for travel card users and restrict those with poor credit ratings. Card users must also receive periodic training and reviews, to see if they still need a card. The bill was originally introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). He was annoyed by reports of government card users buying jewelry and visiting gentlemen’s clubs. President Obama signed the final bill Friday. (Federal News Radio)
  • It looks like Border Patrol agents opened fire on each other last week in an incident that took the life of one agent. The FBI said, based on preliminary evidence, it seems Nicholas Ivie died in an accidental shooting. Ivie and two other agents were responding to an alarm. It had been triggered by a sensor aimed at spotting people entering the United States illegally. The head of the Border Patrol agents’ union said it appeared Ivie opened fire on two colleagues, thinking they were armed smugglers. They returned fire. One of the agents was wounded but has left the hospital. The other was not harmed. (Federal News Radio)
  • The State Department panel investigating the Sept. 11 attack on Benghazi is getting down to work. Foreign Policy reports, the Accountability Review Board is chaired by former under secretary of State Thomas Pickering. Former Joint Chief chairman Adm. Mike Mullen is also a member. The board met for the first time late last week. The attack on the U.S. Consulate left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Also killed were information management officer Sean Smith, and security contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. (Foreign Policy)
  • More than 7,000 postal workers are taking early retirement packages. Mail handlers will leave with an incentive of $15,000. For postmasters, it’s 20,000. The Postal Service told Government Executive it had expected that many employees to take the offer. But it’s just a drop in the bucket for an agency that wants to cut around 150,000 jobs to climb out of the red. It recently announced plans to offer a much bigger buyout to members of the American Postal Workers Union. Nearly 120,000 employees are eligible. The agency expects up to 20,000 workers to take it. (GovExec)
  • The party may be over at the Secret Service. The agency has adopted tougher policies following the prostitution scandal in Colombia. Among the new restrictions: no booze during official trips or within 10 hours of reporting on duty. The new policy puts in black-and-white what agency leaders say was always the unwritten code of conduct. The Washington Post first obtained the documents, which also restrict what agents can say on Facebook and other social media sites. The paper reported Secret Service agents have to sign non-disclosure agreements now. They forbid employees from sharing sensitive security details or personal information about the people they’re protecting. (The Washington Post)