Monday federal headlines – April 7, 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.

  • Buried in last week’s unemployment report is the fact that federal government employment shrank a bit in March. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, federal agencies lost 9,000 jobs. But non-federal government employment grew by 8,000. That doesn’t count teachers. BLS says federal employment has declined by 85,000 over the past 12 months. Overall, the economy added 192,000 jobs in March, but the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent. 2.2 million unemployed people had not searched for work in a month. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • The State Department has agreed to publish the qualifications of ambassadorial nominees. The decision is being hailed by the American Foreign Service Association. The group has been urging State to be more transparent about nominees. The Association says the certificates of demonstrated competence will be written to reflect how well nominees match updated qualifications the group recently published. When it objected to three recent nominees, the Association sued the State Department to release their certificates. (American Foreign Service Association)
  • The Patent and Trademark Office says it’s making permanent a program that puts do-gooders on a fast-track. Patents for Humanity will be an annual contest from now on. It’s open to those who seek patents for inventions that address pressing issues in global development problems. Ten winners will get certificates to speed through certain parts of the patent application process. Past winners in a pilot program have patented business models for delivering HIV medicine in developing countries, creating a faster and more accurate way to diagnose tuberculosis, and delivering solar energy to off-grid villages. (Patent and Trademark Office)
  • President Barack Obama is using the federal government’s contractors and subcontractors as a labor policy incubator. He is sidestepping Congress to set workplace rules on wages, pay disparities and hiring. Obama can do this because contractors are paid customers of the executive branch. He plans to issue an order this week prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their pay. He’s also directing the Labor Department to issue new rules requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data that includes a breakdown by race and gender. The Senate this week is scheduled to take up gender pay equity legislation that would affect all employers, but the White House-backed bill doesn’t have enough Republican support to overcome procedural obstacles. (Associated Press)
  • The Defense Department is not keeping good track of senior officials who leave government for contracting jobs in the private sector. That’s according to a report from the DoD Office of the Inspector General. All senior officials, flag officers and generals must get written, legal opinions when moving to a new job. But the database that keeps track of those documents is incomplete. The IG says DoD should appoint one senior official to be in charge of those documents. (DoD Inspector General, Stars and Stripes)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is scheduled to be the first foreign visitor aboard China’s first aircraft carrier. The tour will take place as part of the secretary’s 10-day trip to Asia. On Sunday, Hagel chided his Chinese hosts, saying they must respect their neighbors. It was an allusion to disputes with Japan and other Pacific rim countries over the East China Sea. To underscore the point, Hagel ordered two ballistic missile destroyers to Japan to counter threats from North Korea. The carrier Hagel will board is a refurbished Soviet-era ship China acquired from the Ukraine. It was recommissioned in 2012 after the Chinese spent a decade fixing it up. In December, it nearly collided with the U.S. Navy cruiser Cowpens in international waters. (Associated Press)