Thursday morning federal headlines – Oct. 11, 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.

  • Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman plans to leave the agency when his term ends next month. IRS said Steven Miller, the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, will become acting commissioner. Shulman has led the agency since March 2008. He said earlier this year he would leave at the end of his five-year term. Shulman has concentrated on improving the IRS workforce and speeding up its IT systems modernization. Before arriving at the IRS, Shulman was vice-chairman of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a private-sector regulator. Miller is a career IRS executive. (Federal News Radio)
  • The State Department trimmed security forces in Libya just months before terrorists attacked the Benghazi compound. Former regional security officer Eric Nordstrom said embassy staff had asked for more security. He testified yesterday at a contentious hearing of the House Oversight Committee. Charlene Lamb, who heads diplomatic security, also spoke. She said she turned down the requests because Libyan nationals were being trained as security guards. Chairman Darryl Issa (R-Calif.) criticized the administration for its handling of diplomatic security. Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) criticized Republicans with cutting State Department security budgets. (Federal News Radio)
  • Mark your calendars for the Great Southeast Shake Out next week. For the first time, the Washington, D.C., metro region will participate in a mass earthquake drill. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Office of Personnel Management are asking all federal agencies to participate. They said the drill will last just 90 seconds. It’s on Oct. 18, a week from today. A magnitude 5.8 earthquake rocked the D.C region in August 2011. (
  • Why did Veterans Affairs employees who went overboard on two conferences last year receive bonuses? Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wants to know. The ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has asked the department for answers. According to a report by the inspector general, the VA spent on average $2,500 on bonus awards for each of 17 event-planners. The staff spent more than $760,000 on promotional items, a parody video and other questionable expenses related to the conferences. (Federal News Radio)
  • Employees in the intelligence community have been singled out by the White House for whistleblower protection. President Barack Obama signed a policy directive that aims to prevent retaliation against people who point out waste, fraud and abuse in the 17 intelligence agencies. The directive gives those agencies until July 2013 to update their personnel policies. The director of national intelligence has a year to issue guidance on precisely what disclosures will be protected. The House recently passed a bill to overhaul whistleblower protections, but it omitted employees of the intelligence community. (Federal News Radio)
  • A high-profile Medicare policy aimed at reducing hospital infections has had no impact, according to a new study. The policy cuts payments to hospitals with high rates of urinary tract catheter infections. But research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found no evidence the change in payments caused any change in the infection rate. Researchers found the rates of infection were already falling. The Wall Street Journal reports, other studies have also shown no effect of using Medicare payments to force quality improvement. The infection policy went into effect in 2008. The Affordable Care Act increases the use of payment-based quality plans. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Federal cloud-computing initiatives are helping agencies make good on an eight-year-old directive. That’s how long they’ve been struggling with secure identity cards. Now the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the General Services Administration are creating a process for identity exchange in the cloud. That will allow existing HSPD-12 ID card to finally be used for network access, not just letting you in the door. (Federal News Radiol)