Wednesday morning federal headlines – Feb. 27, 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 would have to wait longer for the facts and figures they depend upon, if sweeping budget cuts occur. That’s the warning from Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, head of the Government Accountability Office. He says GAO’s staffing level will plunge to a near-historic low under sequestration. It will also trim employee benefits. The agency is already in emergency-management mode after losing a chunk of its funding and trimming staff to the lowest level in decades. It gets about 1,000 audit requests from lawmakers a year. (GAO)
  • A group of 20 federal unions has launched an online message board to let you vent about the potential sequestration. The Federal Workers Alliance said it has posted gripes from all over the country from hundreds of frustrated feds. Rich calls potential furloughs “a slap in the face.” Cynthia is “appalled” at the “sickening” idea on top of two years of pay freezes. Kim in Arlington says lawmakers should do their jobs, make compromises and take care of the business of the country. She warns: Don’t make the people have to “come up there,” because they just may. (FWA)
  • The Joint Chiefs of Staff made a last-ditch plea for Congress to head off sequestration. They testified before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. It’s the fourth time leaders of the uniformed services appeared before Congress in the last few weeks. They said that military readiness and effectiveness would be hindered if the automatic budget cuts take effect Friday. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Ordierno said soldiers could pay for sequestration with their lives. Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Pentagon gets hit with half of the sequestration cuts. That would amount to $46 billion during the current fiscal year. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new statue will have its unveiling today in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. It’s the likeness of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. More than 50 of Parks’ relatives traveled to Washington for the ceremony. President Obama will join House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in pulling away the drapery. Parks is famous for touching off the Montgomery, Ala., city bus boycott in 1955. She died in 2005 at the age of 92. (Federal News Radio)
  • Chuck Hagel will be sworn in today as the new secretary of Defense after being confirmed by the Senate yesterday. Following a bitter debate, the vote was 58 to 41, with four Republicans voting in favor. Hagel takes on a department in flux as it extricates from Afghanistan and finds a way to train women for combat. Plus it faces substantial budget cuts from the sequestration scheduled to occur Friday. Hagel, a Republican, is a former senator. He was wounded in the Vietnam War. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new bill would make Congress fully fund the discretionary portion of the Veterans Affairs Department a year in advance. It already follows this practice for veterans medical benefits. Backers on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee say the bill would ensure VA has the money it needs for IT projects aimed at reducing claims backlogs. The bill is sponsored by Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Ranking Member Mike Michaud (D-Maine). VA’s IT budget is around $3 billion annually. (Veterans Affairs)
  • Americans may be sick of sequestration and it hasn’t even happened yet. A new Pew Research Center poll shows 3 in 4 Americans aren’t paying close attention to the federal budget crisis. That’s fewer than the number who closely followed the fiscal cliff crisis in December. Pollsters say Americans may have crisis fatigue. Congress remains deadlocked over a deal to avoid the sequester, just two days before it is supposed to begin. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) will propose a solution today. But he is a Democrat in the GOP-controlled House and he has no co-sponsors. (Federal News Radio)
  • Before agencies can issue furlough notices, they’ve got a little homework to do. They must negotiate with employee unions over how the furloughs will come down. That’s the word from the Office of Management and Budget, and the big federal unions are holding managers’ feet to the fire. Colleen Kelly, president of the National Treasury Union, said only one of the 31 agencies her union represents have held negotiations. An American Federation of Government Employees lawyer said if agencies don’t bargain over furloughs, they could face charges of unfair labor practices. (Federal News Radio)
  • A good boss can make all the difference, especially when dealing with program cuts and possible furloughs. Five federal managers have received Federal News Radio’s Top Leader in Federal Service Award. They come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Energy Department, the General Services Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. Staff who nominated their bosses for the prize say, despite it all, these leaders keep their motivation and morale high. In turn, the five supervisors say they succeed when they let their staff do their jobs. They have vision, but they don’t micro-manage and they admit when they don’t have the answer. (Federal News Radio)