Friday federal headlines – Dec. 28, 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.

  • With sequestration budget cuts now a distinct possibility, the Office of Personnel Management has issued advice on federal employee furloughs. A 30-page online guide describes what OPM calls administrative furloughs, which are different from government shutdown furloughs. The White House says if sequestration occurs next week, agencies should not expect immediate changes. An administrative furlough can be planned long in advance if an agency anticipates budget cuts. Once furloughed, employees are not allowed to work without pay. (Federal News Radio)
  • Most federal employees will get their first pay raise — 0.5 percent — in more than two years on April 7, according to an executive order from President Barack Obama. All General Schedule employees and about 41,000 other feds under special rates will receive the pay raise, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management. Obama announced in August that he would lift the freeze. Military members are getting a bigger raise sooner. They’ll see their paychecks go up 1.7 percent next month. (OPM)
  • President Obama will meet with congressional leaders at the White House today. They’ll try to come up with a last-minute deal to head off a scheduled jump in tax rates and automatic budget cuts. None of the players has expressed much optimism they can reach a deal. Yesterday, Democratic and Republican senators traded barbs. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called his chamber back into session for Sunday night. Congress is also under pressure to pass a farm bill. Otherwise, milk prices could rise by two dollars a gallon. (Federal News Radio)
  • The State Department has closed its embassy in the Central African Republic, and the ambassador and his diplomatic team have been told to leave the country. Rebel forces are advancing toward the capital of Bangui and violence is rising. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the African Command to evacuate U.S. citizens and some foreign nationals. A State Department spokesman says the United States still has diplomatic relations with the Central African Republic. He said the evacuation is strictly for the personal safety of Amb. Lawrence Wohlers, his family and staff. Other Americans in the country are urged to leave on commercial flights. (Federal News Radio)
  • EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says she’s stepping down after nearly four years on the job. She didn’t give a specific reason. Jackson, a chemical engineer, frequently battled Congressional Republicans and industry over the Obama administration’s environmental policies. The GOP chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton of Michigan, said last year Jackson would need her own parking spot at the Capitol because he planned to bring her in so frequently for questioning. Jackson pushed for new controls on coal fired electrical plants, and for preventing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Federal News Radio)
  • The head of the National Nuclear Security Administration is also stepping down next month. Thomas D’Agostino says it’s a difficult decision to make after more than five years in the role — and 36 years in the government. But he says organizations are healthier when leadership changes periodically, and the time is right for a change. D’Agostino will leave on Jan. 18, when President Barack Obama’s first term officially ends. CNN in 2010 called D’Agostino “undersecretary for saving the world,” citing his leadership of top-secret missions to help former Soviet countries secure loose nuclear material. (NNSA)