Friday morning federal headlines – September 2

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Contractors and the government are butting heads over a new Labor Department rule requiring a contractor who wins a re-compete to hire workers from the incumbent. Labor officials stressed that hired employees must be qualified for the job, and they said the rule doesn’t create a blanket requirement. But industry groups contend the rule goes too far. Alan Chvotkin of the Professional Services Council said takeover contractors often hire people from the incumbent anyhow. But he thinks contractors need more flexibility than the rule allows. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Army is trying to fix the problem of mis-identified graves at Arlington National Cemetery once and for all. It’s converting a hodgepodge of records systems into a single, authoritative database. More than 300,000 people are buried at the cemetery. But the Army lacks a unified listing — electronic or paper — showing who is buried where. The new database will include a photo of every gravesite. Earlier efforts to update cemetery information failed. (Federal News Radio)
  • It’s that time of year again — the Combined Federal Campaign is back, kicking off it’s 50th anniversary season. The CFC allows federal employees to contribute to the charities and causes of their choice. Federal workers, postal employees and military personnel pledged over $280 million in each of the last two years, according to final counts from the Office of Personnel Management. OPM is encouraging feds to break that total in honor of the campaign’s “golden anniversary.” (OPM)
  • When it comes to the FAA, expect déjà vu all over again. Congress returns next week and faces the task of re-authorizing transportation and aviation programs. The FAA’s authorization expires Sept. 16. Lawmakers and the White House both say they want to avoid a repeat performance of the August stalemate that furloughed 4,000 FAA workers. About 16,000 construction workers also went without pay during the two-week shutdown. Federal highway programs, including the fuel taxes that pay for them, expire Sept. 30. The president said if Congress doesn’t reauthorize those programs, a million people could be out of work. (Federal News Radio)
  • “Prohibited Personnel Practices” can get federal employees in a lot of trouble. But they are on the decline. In fact, federal employees’ perceptions that PPPs are occurring are at an 18-year low, according to a survey by the Merit Systems Protection Board. Prohibited personnel practices, or PPPs, include coercive political activity, discrimination, nepotism and retaliation. The MSPB said if employees think prohibited practices are going on, they’ll be less engaged in work and performance will suffer. The board recommended continued training of managers in how to avoid the practices and said new political appointees should get detailed instructions from the head of the department. (MSRB)
  • Contracting firm CSC has scooped up a health information services company called Maricom Systems, The Washington Business Journal reports. CSC paid an undisclosed amount for the Baltimore company that provides IT services to federal agencies to support health IT systems. Maricom has about 200 employees, who will become a part of CSC’s Health Services business area. It will provide IT services and support to Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Systems. (Washington Business Journal)
  • The Constitution says citizens can petition the government for action. Now they can do it online. The White House will launch a web page to accept petitions from the public, called “We The People.” Any petition that manages to garner 5,000 online signatures within 30 days will receive an official White House response. To emphasize word-of-mouth organizing, a petition’s Web address will only be known to the person who created it. The address is not supposed to show up anywhere else on the White House website until the petition has 150 signatures. The White House said it will continue to accept paper petitions. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Baltimore Federal Executive Board has recommended unscheduled leave/telework for agencies in the downtown Baltimore area that are “within the footprint” of the Grand Prix race activities set to kick off today. (Baltimore FEB)
  • FEMA has frozen more than 30-million dollars in funds for Nashville, Tenn. The city was hit hard by flooding in May 2010. The Nashville Business Journal reports that FEMA notified Nashville’s mayor that the money is being held indefinitely, until Congress restores FEMA’s funding. But, FEMA says while the money is delayed it is not denied. The funds will eventually be released; they just can’t say when. Now, Nashville’s mayor is calling on Congress to give FEMA the money it needs to help those flood victims. (Nashville Business Journal)
  • The Mars rover Opportunity is making NASA scientists very happy. After a three-year journey, it’s finally looking at the first rocks inside the Endeavor crater, The New York Times reports. As expected, the rocks are unlike anything the scientists have seen yet on Mars. Scientists say the rocks are full of zinc and bromine, elements that, at least for rocks on Earth, suggest they were formed by heat and water. The rocks in the crater are older, exposed by an impact long ago. The findings could support the theory that Mars once held liquid water. The rover could spend the next few years exploring the crater. (The New York Times)