Monday morning federal headlines – Nov. 5, 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 said it was OK to ask staff to donate money for victims of Superstorm Sandy. Director John Berry told agency heads he was making an exception in this case. He said they can allow a “special solicitation” of federal employees. Agencies can raise funds until Nov. 21. They have to pick the charities that will receive the contributions and make it clear that the drive is not part of the regular Combined Federal Campaign that’s going on now. Contributions made through the CFC may benefit the same charities, but they won’t get to victims as quickly. (CHCOC)
  • The Postal Service is fighting back against Northrop Grumman claiming the company did not fulfill the terms of its contract to update its mail-sorting system. Despite extending Northrop Grumman’s deadline for its Flat Sequencing Systems from Oct. 30, 2010, to July 2011, USPS claimed the company didn’t finish rolling out the project until a month later. Now USPS wanted the contractor to pay nearly $400 million for damages caused by the delays. Six months ago, Northrop Grumman filed suit seeking nearly $180 million. It claims agency delays and disruption caused them to miss their deadline. (Federal News Radio)
  • Several federal buildings in New York and New Jersey remain closed today because of Superstorm Sandy. In New Jersey, most buildings should open by tomorrow. But many in Lower Manhattan remain closed until further notice to everyone except emergency personnel. The Federal Executive Board said non-emergeny employees can come to the office to clean out the refrigerator and get their belongings, but should not linger. It recommended agencies use unscheduled leave or administrative leave as needed. (GSA)
  • The Consortium for Cybersecurity Action, a newly formed international organization of both government agencies and private organizations, wants to be a resource for keeping your information safe. So it is starting with an updated list of 20 controls, originally outlined in the Consensus Audit Guidelines. The Department of Homeland Security is already using the guidelines to implement continuous monitoring and prepare a solicitation for a service that will include the security procedures. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Patent and Trademark Office said its generous telework policy helped it to keep going through the worst of last week’s weather. It estimated that it maintained a 70-percent productivity rate Monday and Tuesday. Director David Kappos called that “remarkable,” considering many patent examiners did not have power at home. He said the Trademark Assistance Center remained fully operational because all of its teleworking employees did their jobs. About 7,000 PTO employees telework at least one day a week. Half of those work from home nearly all the time. PTO has a full-time telework coordinator, who has received national recognition for her role. (USPTO)
  • The Justice Department will be monitoring polling places in 23 states tomorrow. The Civil Rights Division will send about 800 employees to observe voting. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 lets the agency oversee polling practices to make sure no voters are discriminated against. Many of the jurisdictions are mandated by the law because they are in states with a history of discrimination. But others are in swing states like Ohio and places like Miami-Dade, which have a more recent history of disputed vote-counting. (Justice)
  • NASA is launching a new service to send Space Station alerts to your phone. Fans of space exploration can sign up for the service, which will send an email or text message when the International Space Station is visible overhead. The Space Station passes over more than 90 percent of the earth’s population. And when it is visible, usually at dawn and dusk, it is the brightest object in the sky other than the moon. (NASA)