Wednesday morning federal headlines – April 3, 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.

  • Do you believe global warming is a hoax? How about if an alien spaceship landed in Roswell, N.M. back in 1947? If you believe those things, you’ve got company. The latest national opinion poll from Public Policy Polling found that conspiracy theories are sometimes tinged with politics. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans think global warming is a hoax, but only 11 percent of Democrats. One in five Americans harbor the UFO belief. But some theories are truly far out. Only 6 percent of Americans think Osama Bin Laden is still alive. Fewer than 5 percent believe in shape-shifting lizards. Maybe that group doesn’t watch Congress. (Public Policy Polling)
  • Women and people of color are making headway in the government’s top career ranks. New numbers from the Office of Personnel Management show the Senior Executive Service has more female members than at any time in the last five years. That’s despite the fact that the SES corps has shrunk slightly since 2011. The government has made a concerted effort to diversify the elite service by presidential order and through leadership seminars. Men are still two-thirds of the SES. Whites make up 80 percent. (Federal News Radio)
  • Call it the “share the pain” act. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is sponsoring a bill to make sure lawmakers suffer under the across-the-board spending cuts, just like other federal employees. While many feds face the prospect of furloughs and pay cuts, a 1985 law protects congressional pay. Norton’s legislation would update that law to let members cut their own salaries in future sequestrations. It would not change anything this time around though. The 27th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits changes to members salaries until after the next election. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Government Accountability Office has denied a protest from bidders on a big IRS technology contract.The GAO upheld the $80 million award to Signet Computers. It was protested by Government Acquisitions of Ohio and PCI Tech of Virginia. Federal Times reports, the case is unusual because a member of Congress had asked IRS leadership to investigate the contract. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) questioned whether the Signet was a HUBZone company, as it claimed. In its ruling, the GAO said the IRS appeared to have followed all the rules in source selection. Signet gained HUBZone status after it submitted its original bid. (GAO)
  • The government is looking for a new personnel chief. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry is stepping down in two weeks. That’s when his four-year term ends. The White House could renominate Berry for the role. But the Washington Post is reporting Berry may have his sights on something more exotic than running the federal HR department. He is the leading candidate for Ambassador to Australia. Berry’s departure would leave OPM with a leadership hole. The number-two spot has been empty since August 2011. (Federal News Radio)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wants DoD civilian employees to know he feels their pain. In solidarity, he promises to return part of his salary to the Treasury while 800,000 employees face furloughs. The secretary’s job carries a salary of $200,000 per year. As a political employee, Hagel is exempt from furloughs. His spokesman, George Little, told reporters the department is still analyzing budget data to arrive at the final number of employees who will be furloughed. Civilians working in a war zone and foreign nationals under the status-of-forces agreement are exempt. (DoD)
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission will allow public companies to make significant announcements on social media. It’s a major policy update. It means investors could learn about material changes in companies’ fortunes on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. The SEC also says that before they use social media, companies have to first alert investors about which sites they intend to use. That information must come from press releases or regular securities filings. The SEC ruling came after the CEO of Netflix announced a major company milestone on his Facebook page. The commission has not changed its rule that all investors be made aware of a corporate development simultaneously. (Federal News Radio)
  • A leading expert on the federal IT budget is leaving a post he’s held for 15 years. Ray Bjorklund stepped down as vice president and chief knowledge officer at Deltek. Bjorklund joined the data advisory firm FedSources in 1998. It was acquired by Deltek in 2011. Bjorkland tells Federal News Radio he’s not retiring. He plans to announce later this week, where he’s headed next. Before joining FedSources, Bjorklund worked in procurement at the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Air Force. (Federal News Radio)