Tuesday morning federal headlines – Oct. 30, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Federal buildings in the D.C. Area, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York are closed to the public today because of the weather. Non-emergency employees will be granted excused absence. Employees scheduled to telework are still expected to work. Yesterday, the Supreme Court stayed open for arguments. Today it too is closed. Cases have been rescheduled for Thursday. We’ve been told that D.C. area Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and clinics are open and operating under a regular schedule today. Most other VAA medical centers from Virginia to New York City have closed their outpatient clinics. The Manhattan location has been evacuated. Staff should contact their supervisors. If you’re heading out today, take care and allow extra time. Metrorail and Metrobus service is canceled this morning. Most other D.C area public transportation systems have cancelled service for the entire day. That includes the: MetroAccess, Amtrak Northeast Corridor, MARC, VRE, Alexandria DASH, the Fairfax Connector, Fairfax City Cue buses, Arlington County ART buses Loudoun County commuter bus system and Tysons Express bus services, Prince William County PRTC buses. Public transit in New York and Baltimore is also suspended. The Military Officers Association of America has canceled its career fair in Arlington but is still holding its annual meeting. The Partnership for Public Service has canceled a stakeholders’ meeting. If know of any federal closures or cancellations not mentioned here, you can let us know on Twitter using the #fedclosings hashtag, or by emailing us at FNRcomment@federalnewsradio.com/. You can also call our hotline at 202-895-5086. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is monitoring power plants in Sandy’s path. Federal inspectors have hunkered down at plants along the East Coast. They are providing round-the-clock coverage to make sure plant operators follow safety procedures during and after the storm. The NRC declared an alert yesterday evening as water rose at the nation’s oldest nuclear power plant. It’s at Oyster Creek, N.J., near the Atlantic Ocean. But officials expect the water to recede within a few hours. Part of the plant at Indian Point, 45 miles north of New York City, closed late last night because of external electricity issues. The operator said there was no risk to employees or the public. (NRC)
  • The White House wants to know, what exactly senior acquisition leaders do. Agencies have until Jan. 15 to update their definition of that job. Joe Jordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said the acquisition leaders need to stick more closely to the laws and regulations in place. A recent Government Accountability Office report found that many acquisition leaders pay too little attention to acquisition management itself. The Chief Acquisition Officers Council plans a December meeting to discuss the matter. (Federal News Radio)
  • Low-tech solutions have helped the Health and Human Services Department’s IT folks weather Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy. Chief Information Officer Frank Baitman said staff printed out paper contact lists, just in case they lost network access. It’s a move inspired by last summer’s Derecho storm. The department lost email access when a key data center went down. Since then, Baitman said, his staff has retested backup systems. He’s been reading hourly reports from 200 data centers across the country. So far, so good. And, he said employees are ready too. Leaders urged them to take laptops home last week. The department also increased its help-desk staff over the weekend to answer employees’ pre-storm questions. (Federal News Radio)
  • Like the Star Spangled Banner, the government’s main portal, USA.gov, kept waving throughout the worst of Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy. The storm has been downgraded, and the servers are still up. A General Services Administration spokeswoman said traffic to USA.gov and its Spanish language sister site rose 13 percent before the storm. GSA started posting storm information on Friday. It awarded contractor CGI a five-year, $21 million task order in January to host USA.gov, along with several other federal websites. (Federal News Radio)
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory switched on its new supercomputer. The machine, dubbed Titan, might be the most powerful computer in the world. Information Week reports, Titan’s capacity is like all 7 billion people on the Earth each performing 3 million calculations a second. In computerese, that’s 21 petaflops. The Energy Department will use titan for several research programs. They range from testing biofuels to modeling atomic-level materials. Titan is 10 times more powerful than Jaguar, the machine it replaces at Oak Ridge. It consists of nearly 19,000 computing nodes housed in 200 cabinets. (Information Week)
  • The Postal Service says it will attempt to deliver mail in the Washington, D.C., area today, where it is safe to do so. It’s assessing Sandy’s impact on its facilities now. Some local retail operations in Faulkner and Waldorf Town Center have lost power. Other operations from Richmond, Va., to Boston are also closed. The agency told Federal News Radio yesterday: employees were working “around-the-clock” to deliver the mail before Sandy reached land. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund is providing grants of up to $500 to feds hurt by Sandy. You can apply for help online or via telephone. But the organization said it needs help too. It recently handed out more than $80,000 in emergency grants to feds in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Isaac. It said that depleted its funds. It’s looking for donations now. Go online or call 1800-323- 4140. But be patient if you can’t get through right away. FEEA expects phone lines to be busy. (FEEA)