Thursday morning federal headlines – Jan. 24, 2013

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 percentage of American workers who belong to a union dropped in the past year, including among workers in the federal sector. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show 11.3 percent of all workers belong to a union. That’s down 0.5 percent from last year. It’s the lowest since the 1930s. The federal workforce is nearly 27 percent unionized, down about 2 percent. Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, blames widespread hiring freezes for the drop in federal union membership. (Federal News Radio)
  • As they promised, House Republicans passed legislation to avert a government default. With strong Democratic support, they voted to let the Treasury Department keep borrowing above the current debt limit of $16.4 trillion. But that authority only extends to May 18, and it requires the Senate to pass a budget resolution or else lawmakers in both chambers will have their salaries withheld. A White House spokesman said President Obama would go along with the bill. A Senate vote could take place as early as Friday. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal offices are open today, but the snow may make for a messy commute. If you are a non-emergency employee, the Office of Personnel Management says you can take unscheduled leave. Just check with your supervisor first. If you are eligible to telework, you can do that also. But emergency employees still should come in to the office. The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory through 9 a.m. It expects around an inch of snow, tapering off towards the end of the morning rush hour. (Federal News Radio)
  • Gay rights groups have revived their campaign for an executive order banning discrimination among federal contractors. They unsuccessfully lobbied President Barack Obama last year for a directive to protect employees at those companies from bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Obama declared his support of gay rights in his inaugural speech Monday. But a spokesperson said the White House isn’t ready to issue an order. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said any directive would have to be structured narrowly because the sanction is usually debarment. It said businesses also would worry about new paperwork and enforcement requirements. (Federal News Radio)
  • Defense contracting giant General Dynamics reported a loss of more than $2 billion in the latest quarter. Revenue fell 12 percent in the same period, to $8 billion. GD says the loss wasn’t the result of operations. It’s because the company recorded a $2 billion goodwill impairment against the value of its Information Systems and Technology Group. It cited reduced defense spending. Otherwise the company earned $491 million. Still, that was less than analysts were expecting so the stock fell. General Dynamics noted that several of its markets are shrinking as a result of government budgets both in the U.S. and overseas. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Finance and Accounting Service is preparing for sequestration in a fairly dramatic way. Federal Times reports, on Jan. 27 the agency will freeze hiring, stop nominating employees for performance awards and slash travel, training and overtime. Those steps were outlined in an e-mail from DFAS Director Terri McKay. She says furloughs could come next. DFAS managers discussed the plans earlier this month with the American Federation of Government Employees. (Federal Times)
  • The State Department is moving quickly to beef up security at missions worldwide. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeated that refrain in back-to-back congressional hearings yesterday. She called the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, highly personal for both the families of the four victims and herself. Diplomats stationed there repeatedly had asked for more security. Clinton said she never saw those requests. She chided lawmakers for cutting funds for embassy security over the years. (Federal News Radio)