Monday morning federal headlines – Nov. 19, 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 Postal Service has slashed retail hours at nearly 500 mostly rural post offices. Starting Saturday, some are open to the public just two hours a day. The agency plans to trim hours at thousands more after the holidays. It has taken more than a year for the Postal Service to put its plan into action. It has had to hold public meetings in all of the communities and address lawmakers’ and regulators’ misgivings. But the shorter hours may not be a big adjustment at many of the 500 offices in this first batch. The Postal Service says many are one- man operations. And that one employee may not even work full time. (Postal Service)
  • An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, who accused the chief of staff of harassment, has agreed to settle his case with the government. Agent James Hayes described a “frat house” environment in his lawsuit targeting former chief-of-staff Suzanne Barr. More agents then came forward, saying Barr had made sexually inappropriate comments.Hayes oversees the agency’s New York office. His attorney says he will keep his job, and receive $175,000. Barr resigned two months ago when the case came to light.(Associated Press)
  • The Labor Department has a new deputy chief information officer, Dawn Leaf. She is moving to Labor from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Leaf has been leading federal cloud computing efforts at NIST for the past 2-1/2 years. Bob Bohn will take over Leaf’s responsibilities at NIST. She starts her new job today, reporting to CIO Michael Kerr and replaces Tom Wiesner, who retired.(Federal News Radio)
  • The FBI email investigation that toppled a CIA director was an odd case. The FBI rarely investigates allegations of email harassment. An AP examination of court records shows only nine such cases in the last two years. But this time, the email sender seemed to have knowledge of the whereabouts of former General David Petraeus. The FBI eventually traced the messages to Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ biographer and mistress. The case was sensitive enough that Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller were kept informed. Both say they didn’t tell the president because national security didn’t appear to be at stake. (Associated Press)
  • Six Republicans on the House Space, Science and Technology Committee say senior administration officials may be using personal email accounts to conduct business. They have sent letters to the EPA, the Energy Department and the White House. In one example, they cite an article in the conservative Daily Caller that accuses EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson of using the email pseudonym “Richard Windsor.”

    Update: An EPA spokeswoman told Federal News Radio the EPA administrator is assigned two email addresses: a public one, which is posted on EPA’s website, and an internal email specifically to communicate with staff. The internal account is necessary, the spokeswoman said, because the public account receives a flood of messages — more than 1.5 million in fiscal 2012. Both accounts are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, the spokeswoman said. (House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology)

  • The Government Accountability Office has denied a protest against a large Navy award. NextGov reports General Dynamics’ C4 Systems was turned down in protesting a $69,000,000 contract for ship-to-shore communications. That contract went to Serco of Reston, Va. General Dynamics said Serco had a conflict of interest because one of its engineers used to work for General Dynamics, the incumbent on the project. But GAO found that the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command had considered the potential conflict of interest. Auditors also found the Navy preferred Serco’s technical approach. (NextGov)