Friday morning federal headlines – Nov. 9, 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 Office of Personnel Management is easing restrictions on benefits to help feds who are victims of Superstorm Sandy. The Washington Post reports insurers in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program are extending deadlines for things such as notifying them if you’ve had emergency care or been treated by an out-of-network provider. The Federal Long-Term Care Insurance program will not cancel benefits for Sandy victims who fail to pay their premiums on time. The Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program is streamlining its procedures to pay out claims faster, and OPM has a hotline [888-472-2967] for retirees and survivors hurt by the storm. (The Washington Post)
  • The FBI is looking to build a mobile app to let field agents capture biometric data. In a request for information, the FBI told the industry it wanted to replicate functionality it already has on notebook computers. The RFI comes out of the Criminal Justice Information Services division. The app would let users collect photos, fingerprints and iris scans, then compare them to FBI criminal databases. The agency said it wanted this capability in real time, at any point on the planet. Would-be app developers have until Nov. 26 to send in proposals. (Federal News Radio)
  • They’re back. FEMA trailers, that is. FEMA director Craig Fugate said the government will deliver mobile homes to areas of New York and New Jersey hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy. Officials are nearly out of other housing options for displaced people. Reuters reports, Fugate, in a press conference, wouldn’t estimate how many of the trailers FEMA would supply. The trailers have a notorious reputation. FEMA sent tens of thousands of them to support Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005. They were later found to be contaminated with formaldehyde. That prompted lawsuits and a $37 million settlement against the manufacturers. (Reuters)
  • The IRS may have found an answer to its decades-long struggle with its IT systems. Not more money or more people, instead, the IRS has upgraded tech staff skills and business processes. Chief Technology Officer Terry Milholland said the agency as achieved high certification levels in two widely recognized standards. They’re called the Capability Maturity Model Integration and the IT Infrastructure Library. Organizations with these skills have improved the ability to finish projects on time and within budget. The IRS has spent a decade and tens of billions of dollars trying to upgrade its core systems for collecting taxes. (Federal News Radio)
  • A left-leaning watchdog group is calling for an investigation of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said the Republican is using government resources for political gain. Issa has demanded spending reports on more than 150 federal conferences following the General Services Administration’s spending scandal. He recently posted a video on the committee’s website that challenges the high cost of state dinners at the White House called “Obama State Dinners: Spend Like He Says…Not Like He Does.” The group said Issa can take potshots at the president, but cannot use House resources to do it. (CREW)
  • Amtrak is reopening three tunnels under New York City that were flooded by Hurricane Sandy. The tunnels provide access to and from Manhattan’s Penn Station, a major hub along the Northeast Corridor. Reopening them will speed up Amtrak and commuter rail service along the East Coast. Amtrak said trains traveling through those tunnels will operate at 80 percent capacity. The company is still making repairs. (Amtrak)