Wednesday morning federal headlines - Sept. 21

Wednesday - 9/21/2011, 8:24am 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.

  • Congress has until Friday to pass a spending bill for fiscal year 2012 — or face another possible government shutdown. Lawmakers still plan to go on recess next week, which means they have just three more days to pass a continuing resolution. Debate on a CR, which would the government through mid-November, is scheduled on the House floor today. (Federal News Radio)

  • Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he can't rule out the possibility of a government shutdown. Reid's prediction comes after the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, predicted a compromise. But there are still sticking points. House Republicans are on track to pass $3.7 billion in disaster relief as part of a must-pass bill to avert a government shutdown at the end of the month. Democrats oppose it because it cuts more than a billion dollars from a program to help companies build more fuel-efficient cars. (Federal News Radio)

  • Federal information sharing has taken a big step forward. What started in 2005 as a method of sharing counterterrorism data has spread throughout the government. Kshemendra Paul, the program manager for the information Sharing Environment, told Federal News Radio that the National Information Exchange Model has been adopted by many agencies in recent months. For instance, the Agriculture Department uses it to share information about orange juice production. Mexico and Canada have signed agreements to adopt NIEM. (Federal News Radio)

  • Reforming the Postal Service is becoming a partisan donnybrook. The House subcommittee that oversees USPS operations will hold a markup this afternoon on legislation to help USPS return to solid financial footing. That bill, sponsored by House Republicans Dennis Ross and Darrell Issa, would let USPS end Saturday delivery. However, the agency would not get a refund on overpayments to retiree benefits. Democratic subcommittee members Elijah Cummings and Peter Lynch will introduce their own bill this morning, offering flexibility in operations, but giving money back to the Postal Service. Plus there is a Senate postal reform bill as well as a proposal from the White House. (Federal News Radio)

    President Barack Obama has already finished one piece of business during his visit to the UN, launching the international Open Government Partnership. The OGP is a multi-national agreement to support transparency, fight corruption and empower citizens. Its steering committee has representatives from the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The president called for formation of the partnership last year at the UN, and this year, he has asked members to come up with specific ways to carry out the goals of the partnership. (Federal News Radio)

  • The HSPD-12 directive established a governmentwide standard for secure ID cards for federal employees and contractors. But auditors at the Government Accountability Office have found that HSPD-12 still hasn't been implemented as a common ID standard. It turns out that agencies don't trust cards issued by other agencies, so there's little interoperability between them. They've made the most progress in conducting the background checks and in issuing the cards but only limited progress in using the electronic capabilities of the cards for access to federal information systems. (GAO)

  • Programmed payphones have landed a Bethesda, Md., man in jail for defrauding feds. FBI investigators said Nicolas Kantartzis programmed 165 payphones to robocall toll-free numbers, including federal agencies. The owners of those toll-free numbers had to pay him 49 cents for each call. The scheme went on for six years, resulting in millions of dollars in fraudulent profits. The Inspector General for GSA, Brian Miller, said that by auto-dialing, Kantarzis exploited a public service. (FBI)

  • NASA scientists are doing their best to figure out where a plummeting six-ton satellite will fall later this week. Pinpointing where and when hurtling space debris will strike is an imprecise science. For now, scientists predict it will hit sometime between Thursday and Saturday in a so-called strike zone covering most of Earth. Experts expect to have a good idea by Thursday of when and where it might fall. (NASA)