Thursday morning federal headlines – Oct. 18, 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 Diplomatic Security Service is looking for a system that could help it track people using their cell phone and satellite phone signals during an emergency. NextGov reports, the solicitation appears to be a response to the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya. Terrorists killed four Americans in an attack that lasted several hours. Security experts warned that such a system could be hacked, exposing people’s locations to the enemy. James Duckworth, an engineering processor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, said existing systems were not accurate enough to provide precise locations, And, he said, they might not be able to find someone inside a building. (NextGov)
  • If you’re curious about the foreign exchange rate 60 years ago, check out the Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System. The agency is partnering with the Treasury Department to put Treasury’s library online. It’s part of GPO’s attempt to make its website a one-stop shop for government information. Over the next year, it will put more historical documents from Treasury’s collection online. That includes the official registers from the pre-Civil War era and from 1879 to 1959. The documents contain the name of every federal worker, their job title, where they were born, where they worked and how much they were paid. (GPO)
  • An influential trade group is predicting nearly flat federal spending on information technology. The TechAmerica Foundation said 2013 spending will reach about $75 billion. It will grow to about $77 billion by 2017. Last year, the same organization predicted future spending of several billions more. But that was before deficit fears led to the sequestration threat. A TechAmerica spokesman told Federal Times, the reduced forecast assumes sequestration will take place as planned on Jan. 2. (Federal Times)
  • The cash-strapped Postal Service is paying too much for employees’ pensions. At about this time last year, it had a $13 billion surplus. The inspector general said the agency is overfunding the pension because of lower-than-expected pay raises and lower-than-expected cost of living adjustments. Postal employees have fewer steps in their pay scale than other feds. As a result, they received lower salary increases overall than the rest of government. The Postal Service agreed that it was paying too much into the retirement system. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Cemetery Administration is trying to clarify what it means to be an exceptional employee. It’s the first time the Veterans Affairs agency has tried to establish a definition for employee performance above the basic, meeting-expectations level. NCA is running a pilot program under a labor-management forum. The test will take place in the Cemetery Administration’s southeast region. Veronica Wales, who leads labor relations for the Veterans Benefits Administration, said the exceptional performance will be defined in part by how well an employee supports the mission goals. The pilot is part of the Goals, Engagement, Accountability and Results, or GEAR, effort of the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new graduate program for intelligence officers has the stamp of approval from the Education Department. The course is offered at the National Intelligence University. It’s designed to help intelligence officers study and research a wide range of emerging threats to the United States. And now it has the nod from Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The first class graduated in July. It’s one of the few such courses available in a classified environment. Brian Shaw, dean of NIU, the technical sophistication of U.S. adversaries means intelligence professionals need to keep up. (
  • Veterans Affairs is staging a competition to find a better way to schedule medical appointments online. It already offers vets a self-service option, but it’s dated. reports, VA wants the new system to work on mobile devices. And it wants the scheduling system to communicate with Vista, VA’s electronic medical records system. Plus, VA is asking for standards-based, open source software to minimize schedule and cost risks to developing the new system. (GPO)