Monday morning federal headlines – Dec. 10, 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.

  • Senior managers at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are paid well. An Federal Housing Finance Agency’s inspector general report due out today shows employees at the vice president level have a median salary of $388,000. Director level employees have a median income of $205,000. The Wall Street Journal reports, it’s the first look at employee pay at below the executive level. It shows salaries on par with the private sector housing finance industry, but more than most senior federal workers earn. The government took over Fannie and Freddie in 2009. The pair have cost taxpayers $187 billion. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Feds, today is your last chance to pick health benefits. Open Season ends today. If you do nothing, you’ll automatically stay with your current health insurance, dental and vision plans for another year. But benefits and premiums might change, and you have to re-enroll to continue putting money aside in a flexible spending account. This is the only time of the year you can change your benefits, unless you get married, divorced or have another qualifying life event. (Federal News Radio)
  • By the time he leaves office, President Obama’s administration will have produced a billion documents to preserve. Now the White House is getting advice on how to deal with classifying them all. The Public Interest Declassification Board recommends several steps to reduce the number of documents classified and to speed up the process for those that must stay secret. Among the ideas, reduce classification levels from three to two. And, let more documents be declassified automatically. Board chairman Nancy Soderberg said the current system simply can’t deal with the volumes of information generated by electronic systems. (Federal News Radio)
  • New figures show homelessness among veterans dropped by 7 percent this year. More than 62,000 veterans are on the streets. The Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development have been working to end homelessness among vets by 2015. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said they are on the right track. But advocates are skeptical that the government can meet its goal at this pace. Nonetheless, veterans are doing better than the rest of the country. The overall rate held steady this year, with a slight increase in homelessness among families. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack thinks he knows why no farm bill passed during an election year. He says rural America has lost too much political clout. The former Iowa governor said rural interests should stop arguing with one another and present a more unified face to Congress. Agriculture Department figures show the population in 50 percent of rural counties has dropped in the last four years. Yet rural America is where most of the food and energy is produced. At a Farm Journal conference, Vilsack urged farmers to appeal more to urban consumers who eat what farmers produce. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House has put a price tag on the federal response to Hurricane Sandy. It is requesting $60.4 billion from Congress for disaster relief. In a letter to Congressional leaders, the administration said the money will fund recovery and mitigation efforts too. It’s more money than what the White House had first suggested but less than what states had asked for. It said Sandy is either the second or third most-costly natural disaster in U.S. History, behind Hurricane Katrina and close to Hurricane Andrew. (White House)
  • Customs and Border Protection has delayed by nine months the awarding of a contract for an electronic border fence. The original award date was supposed to be this Jan. 1. Now it won’t be until October. NextGov reports, that’s because the agency has received more good-looking bids than it expected. It plans to conduct technology fly-offs between January and April. The expected contract replaces an earlier project the agency canceled in 2011. The goal is to have a fence on the Mexico border made of sensors and cameras rather than a physical wall. (NextGov)
  • We’re learning more about the General Services Administration’s plans to redevelop much of federal Washington. The Federal Times reports more than 14,000 employees would move offices under GSA’s plans for the L’Enfant Plaza area in southwest. That includes workers at the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation and Energy and the GSA itself. GSA plans to fund the project through special financing deals with private developers. Meanwhile, the FBI is looking forward to the day when all of its local employees would work under one roof. Overcrowding at the Hoover building means 17,000 workers are now scattered around Washington. Virginia and Maryland officials say they’d both welcome the bureau to their states. (The Federal Times/Federal News Radio)