Tuesday morning federal headlines – Jan. 8, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission is under fire for spending $8.5 million on consultants to help it reorganize. Rep. Darryl Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is demanding answers from SEC Chairman Elisse Walter. GovExec reports, SEC hired Booz Allen Hamilton to help it carry out a plan called the Mission Advancement Program. SEC said the contract has paid for itself. Officials said the consultants found hundreds of unused wireless cards each costing the agency $43 a month, and an unused shuttle costing $14,000 a month. Issa wonders why SEC needed $300-an-hour consultants to find obvious savings. (GovExec)
  • A new federal study says skilled, engaged employees are more important than ever to the government. The Merit Systems Protection Board has issued the report on employee engagement. It says budget pressures and retirements are big hurdles to keeping folks motivated. Most respondents said they were somewhat motivated by their jobs. But they increasingly felt that job performance has nothing to do with reward. The Board said money is not the most important reward. It recommended managers give employees more say in scheduling and performing their work. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Government Accountability Office has a new website section focused on key issues. The agency says it wants to make it easier for new members of Congress and the public to find the most critical GAO work. The new section groups reports by topic, like food safety, disaster management and cybersecurity. You can also explore by agency, or just browse the three collections. They are “fiscal outlook and the debt,” “high-risk list” and “duplication and cost savings.” (Federal News Radio)
  • If you wanted a cheap ticket to the presidential inaugural ball, forget it. You’re too late. Ticketmaster accidentally put the $60 tickets online for purchase on Sunday evening, a day early. They were scarfed up immediately. Inaugural officials won’t say how many of the tickets were sold. And they won’t say if any more will be offered or for how much. This much is certain. If you don’t have a regular ticket by now, you’re not invited. President Obama is planning a second ball on inauguration night to honor U.S. troops. Those tickets will be distributed free to military members. (Federal News Radio)
  • In making former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) his pick to be Defense Secretary, President Obama is sending lots of signals about future policy. Hagel supports substantial reductions in defense budgets, which he has called bloated. He’s also called for the United States to be more reluctant to send troops and more willing to negotiate with other nations. He says the country dramatically over-reached in the last 10 years. But Hagel also supported the Simpson-Bowles budget plan in 2011, which both the president and Congress ignored. It outlined a formula for $4 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years. The Hagel pick has already sparked opposition among some Senate Republicans. (Federal News Radio)
  • Experienced federal employees stepped back from their own fiscal cliff last month. Fewer retired in December than during any month of 2012. The Office of Personnel Management had predicted more than 7,000 feds would retire in December. Only about 5,000 actually did. For the year, 106,000 federal workers retired. OPM failed to meet its monthly retirement claims processing goal in December. Officials cited the holiday season and vacations. For the year, OPM managed to reduce its retirement claims backlog by 57 percent. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Treasury Department says it exceeded its small-business contracting goals for a second year in a row, and it didn’t just squeak by. It spent roughly 38 percent of its eligible contracting budget on small business. That’s 6 percent more than its target as set by the Small Business Administration. It’s a notable achievement when the government overall is struggling to meet its small-business goals. (Treasury)
  • John Brennan should have an easier time getting the top CIA position this time around. President Barack Obama formally nominated his counterterrorism advisor yesterday. Four years ago, Brennan withdrew from consideration amid questions about the agency’s use of torture. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says she’ll bring up the CIA’s detention and interrogation tactics with Brennan. But she praised the 25-year CIA veteran. Insiders say Brennan knows the spy agency’s “business” and is a real insider. That contrasts with former director David Petraeus, who came from the military. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein)