Tuesday morning federal headlines - August 30

Tuesday - 8/30/2011, 8:11am EDT

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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Federal agencies have until tomorrow to switch their telecommunications over to GSA's Networx contracts. That is, if they want to get reimbursed for the cost of the switch. Karl Krumbholz, GSA's director of network service programs, said agencies can still make the change after tomorrow but on their own dime. GSA has been nudging agencies to move to Networx for two years and has extended the deadline twice. So far, only seven agencies are completely moved. Networx consists of a range of telecom services from several carriers. It is supposed to replace the FS 2001 contracts, now more than 12 years old. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Labor Department has warned it won't be able to make workers' comp payments unless the Postal Service makes a $1.2 billion payment by Oct. 1. Postal has suspended advance payments to the Federal Employees Retirement System as it tries to preserve cash. But Labor wrote a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The department said a Postal default would affect two million federal workers. Postal is asking for Congressional intervention, citing anticipated losses of $9 billion this year. USPS also is working on a plan to cut 220,000 positions by 2015. (Federal News Radio)

  • A good idea, executed sloppily. That's one assessment of the Homeland Security Department as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches. It comes in a report from the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton. The report also looks at another offspring of 9/11, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. ODNI was flawed by a lack of clarity over who's in charge, according to the authors of the report. In both cases, the new entities suffered from resistance by component agencies that had been independent or housed in other departments. (Partnership for Public Service)

  • Medicare shells out about $500 billion in payments every year, and of that, the Government Accountability Office reports, about $48 billion is in improper payments. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Medicare Integrity Program — which recently got about $1 billion in funding — is designed to address fraud, waste, and abuse. But GAO said managers haven't properly trained the people who are handling the day-to-day operations to see the connection between the daily work, and the overall goal of reducing improper payments. Because MIP is central to CMS' efforts to reduce those improper payments, GAO said staff must be better trained and the data must be improved to better calculate the return on investment. (GAO)

  • Homeland Security wants to finally say goodbye to traditional immigration processing forms, Nextgov reports. DHS has published a new rule instructing Citizenship and Immigration Services to use the new computerized Transformation system, instead of filling out paper forms — but the transition is about a decade behind schedule. Agency officials say the first digitized form — one for requesting extensions to stay in the country — will be ready by the end of the year. (NextGov)

  • Lawmakers are trickling back to Capitol Hill from their August recess, and the federal budget won't be the only battle taking place. House Republicans have said they'll also focus on repealing environmental and labor regulations they think are discouraging hiring. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has promised a bill to stop the National Labor Relations Board from restricting where companies put new factories. That's in direct response to a dispute between the administration and Boeing. Cantor also wants to stop the EPA from moving forward with tough new air pollution rules. The GOP challenge comes just before President Obama is expected to unveil his latest plan to boost employment. (Federal News Radio)

  • Virginia's Lake Anna isn't boiling yet, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission isn't taking any chances. The NRC has sent several extra inspectors to Dominion Power's North Anna nuclear generating station, which got a good shaking in last week's earthquake that affected the Eastern Seaboard all the way to Maine. Company officials said the vibrations might have been more than the plant was designed for. The plant also lost electricity, causing it to rely on backup generators for a day. NRC said wants to be sure everything is okay before allowing Dominion to restart the reactors. However NRC also said there's no evidence that the North Anna station is unsafe. (Federal News Radio)

  • Writers and artists representing 93 different comic strips will share their thoughts, feelings and emotions about the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks, according to the Associated Press. The cartoonists hail from five different syndicates — King Features, Creators Syndicate, Tribune Media Services, Universal Press Syndicate and Washington Post Writers Group. They call the combined effort "Cartoonists Remember 9/11." (AP)