Monday federal headlines – May 13, 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.

  • The websites for Federal News Radio and its sister station WTOP are back in business for users of Microsoft Internet Explorer. The sites have been blocked to that browser for nearly a week because the stations’ servers were targets of a cyber attack. It produced a pop-up message warning people their machines had malware. It sent them to a fake website asking for credit card and other personal information for anti- virus software. Neither nor Federal News collect or store Social Security or credit card numbers. Recipients of the stations’ e-mail alerts have received a notice asking them to reset their passwords. (Federal News Radio)
  • Women in the federal government earn 89 cents for every dollar paid to men. President Barack Obama cites that statistic in an executive order on equal pay in the federal workforce. He is directing agencies to report within 90 days their policies for setting pay to the Office of Personnel Management. They’ll report on practices for paying new employees, returning staff and those who work part time because they may be caring for family. OPM in turn will set a governmentwide strategy. The order says the agency may consider changes to the General Schedule classification system, guidance to agencies and recommendations for new laws. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Postal Service reported a $1.9 billion loss over the past three months. While better than at this time last year, the agency says it will continue to bleed money unless Congress passes legislation to help it cut costs. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says all options are on the table, including renegotiating labor contracts and rate increases. A plan to end letter delivery on Saturdays, however, has been postponed. The Postal Service has shed about 31,000 full-time workers over the last six months. It has the lowest number of full-time employees since 1966. (Federal News Radio)
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is making sure agencies are obeying an anti-gag provision in the new Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. The Republican lawmaker has written to leaders of 15 agencies, including State, Defense and Justice. Grassley wants to know how often agencies have used non-disclosure forms or similar agreements to limit an employee’s ability to communicate with Congress within the past five years. The law, enacted last year, says non-disclosure rules don’t apply when employees are talking with Congress or auditors. Grassley also wants to know whether agencies are actively telling their staff about the provision. (River Cities Reader)
  • The Internal Revenue Service is under fire for scrutinizing tea-party groups in the run up to last year’s presidential election. The agency has apologized, blaming the discrimination on a few low-level employees primarily in Cincinnati. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is expected to publish the results of a year-long investigation later this week. A draft copy suggests that executives at the IRS knew about the attention employees were giving to conservative political groups that applied for tax-exempt status following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Republicans took to the Sunday talk shows to demand an apology from President Barack Obama. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has tucked away $765 million into a holding account. The money was supposed to buy medical equipment such as cardiac monitors, x-ray machines and pain-medication pumps. Bloomberg Businessweek reports, it was the biggest amount squirreled away in more than a decade. Bloomberg obtained the information using a Freedom of Information Act request. The money-hoarding came as the VA’s budget ballooned to $140 billion. The VA says it wants to make sure it spends the money wisely and to ensure the agency meets small business contacting goals. But the House Veterans Affairs Committee is looking into the holding account. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been hitting up foundations and companies for donations to help publicize federal health care reform. The New York Times reports, she’ll get $10 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a half million from tax preparers H& R Block. She is also asking health insurers and drug-makers for money. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) says the solicitations may be illegal. He’s calling for an investigation by the Government Accountability Office. The White House says the fundraising will continue. (The New York Times)
  • A new bill would force publishers of mobile phone apps to post clear privacy policies and to get users’ consent before colleting personal information. Computerworld reports, the bill was introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). He calls it the Application Privacy, Protection and Security, or Apps, Act. Two states have already taken the lead on enforcing privacy policy for mobile apps. Texas and California have either sued app developers or cajoled them into more transparency. The mobile industry has been trying to convince Congress it can police itself. Johnson’s bill would required detailed reports on what data is stored and how it used. (Computerworld)