Friday morning federal headlines – Feb. 15, 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.

  • Lawmakers might not like the idea and financial analysts may raise their eyebrows but Americans don’t seem to mind not getting letters on Saturdays. Two polls, one polll from the Postal Service and the other from the independent Pew Research Group found most people approve of the agency’s decision to cut costs by stopping its six-day delivery of first-class mail. But Pew Research noted a wide racial gap as blacks are much more likely than whites to oppose the plan. Pew also found younger people under the age of 30 were more likely to oppose it as well. The Postal Service’s own poll found wealthier people more likely to support the decision. (USPS)
  • The State Department admits most of its overseas posts may not meet security standards, according to Reuters. Undersecretary for Management Pat Kennedy told Congress yesterday that the department built or bought more than 150 diplomatic posts prior to a 1999 embassy construction law. Officials said it can be difficult to find facilities in capital cities that meet requirements like having at least seven acres of buildable land so embassies do not have to be right on the street. The House panel that oversees State’s budget called the hearing in light of recent attacks on U.S. missions in Libya and Turkey. (Reuters)
  • The Congressional list of high-risk federal programs may be dreary, but it’s not inescapable. In its latest biennial high-risk list, the Government Accountability Office liberated two programs. IRS modernization came off after nearly two decades on the list. GAO also removed the practice of interagency contracting. IRS modernization referred to the agency’s effort to overhaul its computer systems first designed in the 1960s. But GAO added new programs, so the list is just as long. (Federal News Radio)
  • The sequestration threat doesn’t mean federal employees need to clean out the office or refrigerator just yet because furloughs could take a while. OMB controller Danny Werfel told the Senate Appropriations Committee that furloughs probably will not occur on March 1, but they will eventually happen. Werfel predicted that 15,000 air traffic controllers would be laid off for at least two weeks. Furloughs at the Border Patrol would equal the work of 5,000 agents. Werfel said agency managers are still negotiating with employee unions over furlough plans. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House will vote today on a bill to block the 0.5 percent federal pay raise scheduled for next month. The measure would instead extend the federal pay freeze to a full three years. Supporters said it will save $11 billion and it would not affect merit awards or step increases. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) who represents many federal workers from his constituency and is one of the bill’s sharpest critics calls the legislation a political stunt. The White House said while the 0.5 percent raise is small, it would help the government with recruiting. President Barack Obama has proposed a 1 percent pay raise for fiscal 2014. (Federal News Radio)
  • The departing Social Security Commissioner charged Congress and the White House with neglecting what he calls the most successful government program ever. Michael J. Astrue’s six- year term expired Wednesday. He said tough choices on taxes and benefits are needed to keep Social Security solvent, but Washington seems unable to make them. He said the program is fraying because of inattention to its problems. The Social Security trustees have said that if nothing changes, Social Security will be bankrupt by 2033. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration is on the hunt for six drone test sites around the country. Congress has ordered the FAA to integrate unmanned aircraft into the nation’s airspace. The request for proposals yesterday said initial testing will involve small drones weighing no more than 55 pounds. The FAA also posted a draft plan to protect the privacy of people near the test sites. Drones are expected to become popular with state and local governments and with businesses and farms. The FAA estimates 10,000 drones will be operating in the United States within five years. (Federal News Radio)