Monday morning federal headlines – March 4, 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.

  • House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is challenging agencies to come up with alternatives to sequestration. He says they should draft lists of programmatic spending cuts that would be less painful. And he wants a list of programs no longer necessary to the agencies’ missions. Issa wants agencies to comb reports from their inspectors general to find the waste. The departments of Transportation and Education inspectors general testify before the committee tomorrow. It’s the first in a series of hearings. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lawmakers from both political parties are saying one agency is hiding the facts from auditors. Members of the House Science Committee said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration booted auditors from program meetings. The lawmakers said they relied on the auditors’ data to help get a troubled weather satellite program back on track. The Joint Polar Satellite System has a history of cost overruns and delays. The lawmakers are demanding that NOAA let the Government Accountability Office and Commerce Department inspectors general back in to the meetings. (House)
  • Some in Washington say spending cuts are the new normal. President Barack Obama signed the order to begin sequestration Friday, saying he had been unable to perform a “Jedi mind meld” and get Republicans to agree on a solution. And that’s where things stand now. No one has come forward with a new alternative. Meanwhile, on the Sunday talk shows, Senate GOP Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calls the budget cuts “modest.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) isn’t sure they’ll hurt the economy. The White House’s top economic adviser Gene Sperling said the pain isn’t that bad yet. (Federal News Radio)
  • If you want to file a housing discrimination complaint with the federal government, there’s now an app for that. The Department of Housing and Urban Development says the Housing Discrimination Complaint App will help the agency fulfill its digital strategy and move a step closer to the public. With sections on fair housing rights, the complaint process and a direct link to HUD’s discrimination hotline, officials hope it will promote understanding and enforcement of fair-housing laws. HP developed the app for HUD. The company said it is a first step in extending HUD’s reach beyond desktop computing. (Marketwire)
  • February was a ho-hum month for the Thrift Savings Plan. The I-Fund of international stocks was the only one that posted negative gains, from 4.45 percent in January to -0.99 percent. The other funds posted positive numbers, though some just barely. The C-Fund led the pack. It grew 1.36 percent, after a January in the 5 percent range. Even with low numbers in February, all 10 funds grew over the last year, with five of them posting double-digit gains. Meanwhile, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board says it won’t furlough employees so they’ll continue to run the TSP nonstop through sequestration. But, it cautions, if you’re furloughed, that will impact your TSP account. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama is expected to make three more picks for his Cabinet today. White House sources says he’ll nominate Wal-Mart Foundation director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head up the Office of Management and Budget. He’ll name MIT scientist Ernest Moniz to head up the Energy Department. And he’ll tap the Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator, Gina McCarthy, for the top spot at EPA. All three posts require Senate confirmation. (Federal News Radio)