Thursday federal headlines – Oct. 25, 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 employees: Time may be running out on a rule that lets you spend more than the per-diem rate on hotels in expensive cities. The General Services Administration just published a proposal in the Federal Register. It would end the “conference lodging allowance” that’s been in place for twelve years. The rule has let feds spend up to 125 percent of per-diem on lodging when they attend federal conferences. Agency officials do not have to approve of the request. GSA says this proposal would let agencies get a “firmer grasp” on how their travel dollars are used. It says travelers should consider staying in cheaper hotels away from the conference site. (Federal Register)
  • The Energy Department did a fine job of limiting employee travel, per White House orders. But it forgot about contractors, who take most of DOE’s government- paid trips. That’s the chief finding of a new Energy inspector general report. Contractors make up 86 percent of Energy’s 116,000 people. They also take 85 percent of the trips. IG Gregory Friedman says Energy officials should pay particular attention to overseas travel by contractors. In the five year period studied, contractors took 90 thousand overseas trips at a cost of 360 million dollars. DOE management agreed with the report’s recommendations and say they’re already taking action. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration is trying to jump start a stalled database project meant for use by the entire government. The System for Award Management, or SAM, went online July 31. But it barely works. Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini has moved responsibility for SAM away from the Office of Governmentwide Policy. He’s given it to CIO Casey Colman and acting acquisition chief Mary Davie. Davie says she and contractor IBM are analyzing trouble tickets to see what’s wrong. SAM tries to combine eight separate databases dealing with contractors and procurement. (Federal News Radio)
  • CIA chief David Petraeus is applauding the conviction of a former officer for leaking classified information. John Kiriakou pled guilty to revealing the identity of an undercover CIA officer to a reporter. He agreed to serve 2-1/2 years in prison. In a message to staff, Petraeus says the case shows: oaths matter and there are consequences for those who break them. It is the first successful prosecution under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 27 years. (CIA)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement is returning 4,000 archeological items to Mexico. They’ll be displayed during a ceremony today at the Mexican consulate in El Paso. The items mostly date from before Europeans landed in the Americas. They include pre-Columbian stones used to grind corn…statues…copper hatchets and figurines. Customs agents and investigators seized them in El Paso, Phoenix, Chicago, Denver, San Diego and San Antonio. (Associated Press)
  • The blue chips are railing against the red ink. CEOs from 80 large U.S. corporations are telling Congress to get its act together. They urge action to reduce the deficit and cut spending. The Wall Street Journal reports, the CEOs will issue a formal statement today. They’ll urge tax reform, limiting growth in health care spending, and making Social Security solvent. They support broadening the taxpayer base but reducing rates. The CEOs will tell Congress it should increase revenues only if that’s accompanied by spending restraint. (Wall Street Journal)