Monday federal headlines – April 14, 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.

  • Eighty-seven cents on the dollar — that’s how much a female white collar federal employee makes compared to the man sitting in the cubicle next door. The Office of Personnel Management compares 2012 salaries for 37 federal job categories. It says the government has made strides towards closing the gender wage gap. Twenty years ago, women in those jobs made 70 cents for every dollar men earned. OPM says the wage gap diminishes at the upper ranks. Senior executives get paid nearly the same regardless of gender. But there aren’t a lot of women in that group. The personnel agency says the government needs to build stronger pipelines for women and increase pay transparency, particularly when it comes to starting salaries. (Federal News Radio)
  • A day ahead of the filing deadline, the IRS says taxpayers have a historically low chance of being audited, because budget cuts have reduced the agency’s ranks. Commissioner John Koskinen says the IRS will still go after the biggest tax scofflaws, but many will simply get away with it. This year, the IRS will have fewer people auditing returns than in the 1980s. Last year, 1 percent of returns were audited. Koskinen says this year, the numbers will go down. He says staff cuts have also hurt customer service. Millions of phone calls to IRS help centers are going unanswered. (Associated Press)
  • NASA is pressing ahead with today’s scheduled launch of a supply ship headed for the International Space Station, even though critical computer is out of commission on the station. NASA says it poses no danger. It will require a space walk to replace. Program manager Mike Suffredini says the SpaceX launch must take place. It’s carrying a new space suit, parts for old space suits and critically needed food supplies. Suffredini says a later launch might interfere with other scheduled operations. (Associated Press)
  • Homeland Security officials say they’re working with other agencies and the private sector to protect websites from the heartbleed bug. The flaw was reported last week. Researchers say it could be used to get critical encryption keys to secure web servers. It could expose passwords and other information for millions of people. Larry Zelvin, director of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, says in a blog post that the government’s main public-facing sites are not vulnerable to heartbleed. Bloomberg reports the National Security Agency knew about heartbleed for two years. But rather than make it public, the agency allegedly used it for spying purposes. A spokeswoman says the Bloomberg story is wrong. (Homeland Security Department)
  • The week-long Jewish festival of Passover begins this evening. Many Jews travel to be with family for the first seder, the ritual dinner that recalls stories from the book of Exodus. Many will be carrying boxes of matzos, the unleavened bread eaten by Israelites as they fled Egypt. The Transportation Security Administration is telling security officers to be careful in security lines not to accidentally crush the delicate sheets of matzo. TSA tells them to expect requests for hand inspection of religious items in general. (Transportation Security Administration)
  • Charities will have to pay to play in the Combined Federal Campaign. That’s one of several changes the Office of Personnel Management makes. All charities will pay application fees. Those selected may have to pay listing and distribution fees, too. OPM says the money will help cover administrative costs. It says it’s still working with charities to set up a fee structure that won’t rule out any that want to participate. For federal employees, no more cash might be the biggest change. Beginning in 2016, the CFC will accept donations electronically or by personal checks only. Last year, CFC pledges dropped 19 percent over 2012, to $210 million. (Office of Personnel Management)
  • The Navy’s 7th Fleet is sending a supply ship to support Australian naval ships hunting for the lost Malaysian airliner. The USNS Cesar Chavez is a dry cargo and ammunition transport. It will replenish supplies of the Australian ships Success, Perth and Toowoomba. Chavez is manned mostly by civil service mariners, joined by a handful of Navy sailors. The plane is believed to be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean off the Western coast of Australia. It’s been days since searchers have detected pings consistent with those emitted by flight data recorders. Now searchers are preparing to deploy unmanned submarines equipped with sonar. The Chavez took on provisions and fuel in Singapore. (Defense Department)
  • While sequestration put a damper on U.S. military spending last year, Russia was on a spree. A Swedish arms watch group says, for the first time in a decade, Russia spent a bigger share of its economy on weapons than the United States did. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says Russia increased military spending by 4.8 percent last year to nearly $88 billion. That’s still a fraction of U.S. spending, but it’s more than 4 percent of Russia’s GDP. The country is about a third of the way through an aggressive multi-year push to modernize its military and defense industries. The United States spent 3.8 percent of GDP, or $640 billion, on defense last year. (Associated Press)