Wednesday morning federal headlines – March 6, 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.

  • Calling it a risk management approach, the Transportation Security Administration will let airline passengers board with golf clubs, lacrosse sticks, ski poles and even small pocket knives. Razor blades and box-cutters are still banned, though. TSA said its new approach is more in line with international standards. The new rules take effect April 25. Only knives shorter than 2 1/3 inches will be allowed. TSA will also allow toy baseball bats and billiard cues. (Federal News Radio)
  • Why have wine tastings when there’s sequestration? Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is asking the Agriculture Department to explain. In a letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack, Coburn asks why USDA is sponsoring two events in California and Oregon wine country. He says they may be fun, interesting and even educational, but not a priority. USDA said it will furlough all employees, including food inspectors for up to two weeks. The food industry and powerful lawmakers fear that could slow down food production. (Sen. Tom Coburn)
  • NASA has renewed its deal with contractor Wyle to support missions carrying people to the International Space Station. The contract continues a relationship dating back to the 1960s. The 10-year deal is valued at more than $1.7 billion. Wyle will provide health, safety, science and engineering support across a variety of missions involving people in flight. Most of the work will take place at Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston. Subcontractors include Lockheed Martin, CSC and the University of Houston. (Wyle)
  • A House committee says agencies could avoid the pain of sequestration, if only they would listen to their inspectors general. Members of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform point to 17,000 recommendations to save $67 billion. They’ve all been ignored. Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says there’s no excuse. He also urged the Obama administration to fill vacant IG slots. At a hearing, the Education Department IG said her agency is missing out on $415 million in savings. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says it has received official word about furloughs at the FAA. It says the agency will send notices to all employees. They could be required to take days off from work — unpaid — beginning next month. The group says many air traffic control towers will close. Already, officials at airports in Los Angeles and Chicago say international travelers should expect delays at customs and immigration booths. They’ve cut back on workers’ overtime, meaning fewer lanes are open. (NATCA)
  • The Office of Personnel Management has closed federal offices in the Washington, D.C., region today. If you are considered an emergency employee or if you planned to telework today, then follow your agency’s policy. Non-emergency employees will be granted excused absence. This applies to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore agencies. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning until early tomorrow morning. Airlines have canceled hundreds of flights, most of them at Dulles and Reagan National airports. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House has canceled public tours beginning Saturday. Officials say — blame sequestration. The budget cuts have forced them to reassign security officers who normally monitor tourists. They are also cutting overtime hours and considering furloughs. (Federal News Radio)