Thursday federal headlines – January 23, 2014

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 Office of Personnel Management is laying off more than 300 employees. 75 are full time. All come from the agency’s Human Resources Solutions office. The cut comes as OPM ends a program to assist other agencies with the testing of job candidates. Joseph Kennedy, associate director of the HR Solutions office, cites budget cuts. He says the layoffs will be effective March 28. They’ll reduce the office by half. OPM has created a resume bank for the RIF-ed employees and will notify other agencies of their availability for hire. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Transportation Security Administration might let airport screeners carry cell phones at work. An official tells the Associated Press, that’s one option being considered as the TSA reviews the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport last fall. Unarmed TSA officers fled the screening area when they saw shots being fired. The officers did not hit a panic button or use a landline to call for help. An airline contractor called a police dispatcher, who told officers over the radio. That cost nearly a minute and a half of critical time. The shooter, Paul Ciancia, killed TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez. (Associated Press)
  • The Justice Department has charged the government’s main background check contractor with fraud. It joins a whistleblower complaint already lodged against USIS in the district court of Alabama. The Wall Street Journal reports, prosecutors accuse the company of filing more than 660,000 flawed background checks. Among the allegedly flawed investigations were those of NSA leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis. The company says integrity and excellence are it’s core values. (Reuters)
  • Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says she “picked up on morale issues” among those guarding the nation’s nuclear missiles. James is on a fact-finding tour following cheating and drug scandals. She says despite the problems, she has full confidence in the nuclear mission. According to the Great Falls Tribune, near Malmstrom Air Base, N.D., James says she believes the airmen are motivated and committed but under unique stress. Missileers spend 24-hour shifts in underground bunkers. (Associated Press)
  • The Pentagon has approved a new policy on religious practice and clothing by troops. It will allow them to seek waivers to wear religious garb, seek prayer time or engage in religious practices. The new policy went into effect yesterday. Approval depends on where a service member is stationed and whether the change would affect readiness or the mission. Approvals will be case by case. But they can only be denied if an adverse military effect outweighs the service member’s needs. Waivers affecting appearance, such as beards or turbans, go far up the chain of command. (Associated Press)
  • The Navy says sailors at sea will get more money. Vice Adm. Bill Moran, the chief of naval personnel, says a raise is long overdue. He says it’s been more than a decade. The official word on sea-duty pay will come soon from the secretary of the Navy and chief of Naval Operations. Moran climbed aboard the USS Bataan at Norfolk to address sailors. He tried to quell rumors of changes to their retirement benefits. The ship deploys next month. (Navy)
  • Lockheed Martin’s super-expensive F-35 program is falling short on job creation. The company claims the F-35 has created 125,000 jobs, both direct and indirect, nationwide. The nonprofit Center for International Policy says the true figure is less than half that number. It says the jobs are concentrated in a handful of states, led by Texas and California. A Lockheed spokesman tells Bloomberg, job creation is an art more than a science. He notes that the nonprofit’s numbers do not include overseas employees. (Center for International Policy)
  • The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has a strong recommendation for the NSA phone surveillance program. Shut it down and purge all the records. The board made its recommendation to President Obama before his speech last week. The President said he would continue the program for now but with revised rules. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the board’s findings. It shows members were divided. Two members appointed by President George W. Bush dissented. Former Justice Department lawyer Rachel Brand says second-guessing could harm national security. (Associated Press)
  • A new bill would re-name the Government Printing Office. It would be called the “Government Publishing Office.” Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) introduced the bill. It acknowledges that the GPO has long been doing digital and online publishing of federal documents in addition to ink-on-paper. The head of the GPO, Davita Vance Cooks, endorses the name change. Her title would change from “public printer” to “director.” (Federal News Radio)