Friday morning federal headlines – Nov. 16, 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 Senate confirmed Martin Gruenberg as the new chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The vote was unanimous. It had been on hold because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wanted to wait until after the presidential election results. Gruenberg was vice-chairman of FDIC. The Wall Street Journal reports, he is well-liked by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. The Senate also confirmed Thomas Hoenig as FDIC vice chair. He is known for favoring breakups of the largest banks. Two Republicans have placed a hold on the nomination of Richard Berner to a six-year term as head of the Office of Financial Research at the Treasury Department. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The Postal Service’s announcement that it lost nearly $16 billion in fiscal 2012 did not come as a surprise on Capitol Hill. But it’s unclear whether it will compel lawmakers to pass a law giving the agency more control over its costs. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) was one of the voices urging Congress to act. He said the Postal Service is marching towards financial collapse. But one of the largest postal unions says it’s really not that bad. Mandatory costs for future retiree health benefits account for nearly two-thirds of the $16 billion in losses. The National Association of Letter Carriers notes operating losses were half as bad as last year. And the union says shipping revenue is up more than 8 percent. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Department could save $7 billion a year if it stopped spending on things like beer-making, according to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) His new report lists hundreds of non-military goods and services the Pentagon either buys or makes for itself. Coburn cites items such as a workshop entitled, “Did Jesus Die For Klingons.” His report calls out big items, too. Coburn thinks the military has one thousand more flag officers than it needs, and too many uniforms doing civilian work. (Federal News Radio)
  • Government auditors say the State Department has to be more strategic about diplomatic security. The Government Accountability Office’s Michael Courts testified at a Congressional hearing on security lapses at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. He said the State Department has not carried out GAO’s earlier recommendations. Back in 2009, GAO warned the agency to do a strategic review of its Bureau of Diplomatic Security. But it did not. The bureau has doubled its staff over the past decade and hired more contractors to meet an increasingly hard mission. But GAO said that hasn’t made missions more secure, and the bureau still struggles with staff shortages. (GAO)