Wednesday federal headlines – December 11, 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.

  • Groups representing federal employees are hammering the bipartisan budget agreement established yesterday. It raises the retirement contributions of newly hired federal employees. And it trims benefits to military retirees. Those measures help offset spending increases that partially replace sequestration cuts. Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, says feds won’t be happy with the deal but will be forced to accept it. The American Federation of Government Employees calls the deal an assault against public sector workers. (Federal News Radio)
  • John Koskinen, the President’s pick to lead the Internal Revenue Service, pledges to restore public trust in the agency. Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Koskinen also promises to boost morale. He calls on Congress to restore funding and personnel cuts that have hampered tax collections. Koskinen says he’ll cooperate with Congress in getting to the bottom of the apparent targeting of conservative groups by the IRS tax exempt division. Senators from both parties express support for Koskinen’s nomination. (Federal News Radio)
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calls for an investigation into She’s asking the department’s inspector general to evaluate the contracting process, management, performance and payment issues. She will testify today before the Energy and Commerce Committee about patient portability and the Affordable Care Act rollout. (Associated Press)
  • Soon you’ll be looking up to the Army Corps of Engineers, Customs and Border Protection and the General Services Administration. Literally. The three agencies will be moving regional offices into floors 50 through 55 of the new One World Trade Center in New York. The 104-story tower is next to the site of World Trade Centers one and two that were destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. Federal offices were among those wrecked that day. GSA says the agencies will move in starting in 2015 and occupy 270,000 square feet. The announcement drew praise from members of New York’s congressional delegation, including Sen. Chuck Schumer. (GSA)
  • Defense contractors in war zones suffer from post-traumatic stress just like the troops they support. In fact, mental problems may be more pervasive among contractors. About a third of the ones surveyed by the RAND corporation showed signs of PTSD. Just a fifth of U.S. service members report the same. And service members tend to have better access to mental health services. The researchers say private contracting firms should better prepare employees for the stress of working in a conflict zone, and afterwards they need to encourage employees to seek treatment. (Federal News Radio)
  • Penny-wise and pound foolish, at best. That’s what the Senior Executives Association is calling the Defense Department’s decision to limit performance awards for top career employees. The group says the new guidance could encourage senior executive service members to retire, resign or transfer. The department plans to make smaller awards to fewer employees. It will draw from just 1 percent of aggregate salary levels for executives. Governmentwide guidance calls for 1 percent for rank-and-file feds, but 5 percent for senior executive service members. (Federal News Radio)
  • A House committee is looking into a cybersecurity attack at the Food and Drug Administration. The lawmakers are asking for names of any contractors or subcontractors, past or present, that might have had access to the FDA’s online submission system. They also want to know whether the hackers accessed confidential business or patient information. The hack happened during the government shutdown in October. The FDA has told 5,000 active users to change their passwords and check their credit reports. (House Commission on Energy and Commerce)
  • A dozen industry associations urge Congress to change a law that prohibits federal technology purchases from Chinese companies. The groups want lawmakers to adopt alternate language found in the Senate’s version of a 2014 appropriations bill. The Commerce, Justice, Science and NASA bill gives agencies more discretion to assess risk of Chinese products and services. The associations say that language resulted from collaboration among Congress, industry and cybersecurity experts. (Federal News Radio)