Monday morning federal headlines – March 18, 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.

  • A powerful congressman has asked for an audit of agencies’ sequestration plans. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wants to know whether agencies are using furloughs or reductions in force to cope with budget cuts when other alternatives exist. He asked the Government Accountability Office to review how agencies have defined programs, projects and activities. And he wants to know how they have used reprogramming or transfer authorities to move money around. GAO says it’s too early to say when it might issue the report. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission may have passed its peak in the number of fraud enforcement actions it brings. The Wall Street Journal reports, the agency is filing far fewer civil fraud cases this year, after breaking records in the last two years. Commissioner Mary Jo White might face questioning on that subject in her final Senate confirmation hearings tomorrow. President Barack Obama nominated her to become SEC chairman. White has promised senators she would work aggressively to bring all wrongdoers to account. Experts expect the SEC to increase the number of accounting fraud cases it launches. That yearly total has fallen since the days of Enron and WorldCom. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • A coalition of federal employees’ groups is warning Congress: remember the mistakes of the 1990’s National Performance Review. Back then, one out of every six employees left the federal government. But government auditors found the review did not save as much money as it claimed. It also encouraged frontline workers, rather than mid-level managers, to leave. The Coalition for Effective Change said without strategic personnel planning backlogs rose at customer-focused agencies like the IRS, Social Security Administration and Veterans Affairs. (Coalition for Effective Changel)
  • President Barack Obama will officially name his pick for labor secretary today. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez now leads the Justice Department’s civil rights division. His nomination has been expected for weeks, but an inspector general report last week raised some doubts. It highlights years of employee harassment in the division’s Voting Section. It did not blame Perez for the problems but said he, as head of the division, should have been more aware. Before coming to the Justice Department, Perez served as Maryland’s labor secretary. (Federal News Radio)
  • The FBI has determined the fatal shooting of one federal officer by another was justified. The incident occurred last year when a Customs Enforcement officer in Long Beach, Calif., shot and killed another officer who had shot their supervisor. The boss survived. An FBI spokesman told the Associated Press, it will keep investigation details secret since a grand jury declined to press criminal charges. Privacy groups criticized the FBI. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says the public has a right to more information because the shootings occurred on public property and because they were carried out by federal employees. (Federal News Radio)
  • A federal judge has imposed a roadblock in a key FBI national security effort. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston of San Francisco ruled national security letters unconstitutional. The FBI issues thousand of the letters each year. They go to banks, phone companies and other businesses demanding customer information. The letters are sent without judicial review and recipients are not allowed to disclose them. Illston ordered the FBI to stop issuing them. But she put the order on hold for 90 days to give the Justice Department time to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of an unnamed telecommunications company. (Federal News Radio)