Tuesday morning federal headlines – Nov. 27, 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.

  • A coalition of unions have sent a le tter to Congress saying: Don’t stop sequestration on the backs of federal workers. The Federal Workers Alliance which represents more than 300,000 feds told House and Senate leaders they must move to stop the automatic spending cuts set for January 3. But any compromise cuts should come from somewhere other than federal pay and benefits. FWA said feds have already given more than $103 billion. It also hit back against stereotypes that the federal retirement system is extravagant, saying it came about as a bipartisan effort between former President Ronald Reagan and former House Speaker Tip O’Neill. (FWA)
  • David Kappos, director of the Patent and Trademark Office, will step down at the end of January. The Wall Street Journal reports Kappos told employees in an email. He joined PTO in 2009, giving up a job as the top patent attorney at IBM. Kappos helped guide a law overhauling the patent system through Congress. He also made the agency more efficient, reducing the application backlog from 750,000 to just over 600,000. Under Kappos, PTO set up its first satellite offices scheduled to open next year. Deputy director Teresa Stanek Rea will become acting director. (The Wall Street Journal — This is a paid site that requires a subscription to access stories.)
  • A rock and roll singer has found out that when you are invited to perform at a U.S. embassy, it’s good to show a little discretion. GovExec reports the State Department invited Andrew W.K. to perform at the embassy in Manama, Bahrain. The Atlantic Wire reports, W. K. took the invitation to appoint himself as a cultural ambassador for partying. The State Department withdrew the invitation, saying W. K.’s show doesn’t meet its standards. W. K. plays a guitar shaped like a pizza and appeared on an album cover with a bloody nose. (GovExec)
  • The Food and Drug Administration has for the first time used its new power to shut down food factories. It ordered the suspension of operations at a New Mexico peanut butter plant thought to be a source of salmonella poisoning. Before a new law was enacted in 2011, the FDA had to go to court to get an order to close a plant. The company which operates the plant, Sunland, must prove to FDA inspectors that the factory is clean enough to start up again. Sunland is the country’s biggest processor of organic peanuts. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House will start considering a bill that would put the Homeland Security Department under an oversight microscope. The DHS Accountability Act of 2012 would establish in Congress an independent advisory panel. The panel would assess DHS management and come up with recommendations to improve it. Its main focus would be reducing duplication and boosting efficiency. The panel would also look at whether duplication and waste harm the department’s ability to perform its main mission. (House bill)
  • Mary Schapiro is stepping down as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Her last day will be December 14. President Obama will name commissioner Elisse Walter as the new chairman. Schapiro leaves after four years on the job. She helped lead the administration’s response to the 2008 financial crisis. When Schapiro took over, the SEC had just been dinged after failing to catch the multi-billion dollar Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme. But the SEC still has a lot of work to do, writing new regulations required by the Dodd Frank financial oversight bill the president signed into law in 2010. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Army has awarded 20 companies a spot on a $10 billion contract for communications technologies. The Global Tactical Advanced Communications System is a five-year, indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity deal. Orders smaller than $4.5 million dollars are set aside for small business. The roster of winners includes six small companies. The Army says GTACS provide a single place to buy technology for both production and test environments. It replaces the World Wide Satellite Systems contract. (Federal News Radio)
  • After nearly 17 years of courtroom actions, hundreds of thousands of Native Americans have won a $3.4 billion settlement with the U.S. government. The appeal period expired Friday meaning payments in the so-called Cobell Settlement could begin by the end of the year. Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet leader in Montana, sued the government in 1996. She said those who leased Indian land made money from natural resources with no accounting of royalties for Native Americans. The government was responsible, she said, since it holds the land in trust for Native Americans. Cobell died last year, but on Monday, President Barack Obama praised her for her legacy of “honorable work.” (White House)