Tuesday morning federal headlines – March 26, 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 Office of Personnel Management wants to get a better handle on why federal executives leave government. It is asking agency HR directors to have departing members of the Senior Executive Service fill out exit surveys. OPM says those should provide some candid feedback that could help with retention and succession-planning efforts. Last week, OPM director John Berry warned that the federal workforce was close to the edge of the cliff. February saw four times as many retirements as predicted. (CHCOC)
  • The Agriculture Department is putting more anti-poverty tiger teams in rural America. Secretary Tom Vilsack will make the announcement in South Carolina today. Staff help communities apply for loans and grants to fund wells, greenhouses and the like, even summer meals for poor school children. Vilsack says rural communities often do not have the technical wherewithal to know what federal programs are available or how to satisfy their requirements. The Strike Force initiative already operates in 10 states. They’ve seen dramatic growth in the number of USDA farm and housing loans awarded. One of the new states added is Virginia. (USDA)
  • John Gingrich, the chief of staff of Veterans Affairs, is retiring. His federal career lasted nearly 40 years. He has been chief of staff at VA since 2009. His tenure was not without controversy. In an inspector general’s report last year, he was singled out for lack of oversight in the wasteful conference spending scandal. At the time, House and Senate Republicans asked VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to remove Gingrich from his post. He retires on March 31. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Special Counsel says it’s “deeply concerned” about a federal court ruling that stops low-level Defense employees from appealing suspensions and demotions. OSC filed an amicus brief in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. It said if the ruling is upheld, it could have a chilling effect on whistleblowers. Two low-level D0D employees were demoted after credit checks revealed negative information. They appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, but DoD and the Office of Personnel Management say because they have sensitive positions, they should not be allowed to appeal outside of the department. OSC disagrees. The case will now be reheard by Federal Circuit Court. (Federal News Radio)
  • One lawmaker is promising his bill can lower prescription drug costs for federal employees. Rep. Steven Lynch (D-Mass.) says the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program is paying between 15 and 45 percent more for prescription drugs than other federal health care programs like those at the Veterans Affairs and the Defense departments. His bill would give the Office of Personnel Management, which runs the FEHBP, greater oversight authority. It would also require the middle-men who contract with insurance plans to return nearly all rebates, market share incentives and other bonuses from drug makers. (House)
  • The IRS says a 2010 Star Trek parody video was a mistake. The six-minute video was played at the beginning of a training conference. It depicts an elaborate spaceship set and cost nearly $60,000. The House Ways and Means Committee requested the video when they found out about it and then released it to the public. House Republicans called it a waste of taxpayer dollars. And IRS officials said a video like this would not be made today. (Federal News Radio)