Thursday morning federal headlines - Sept. 22

Thursday - 9/22/2011, 8:53am 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.

  • The House failed to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded after Sept. 30. The defeat of the bill came as a surprise to many lawmakers. One point of contention was a Republican gambit to increase spending on disaster relief at the expense of subsidies for certain automobiles favored by Democrats. The government faces a shutdown Oct.1 if lawmakers don't agree on a funding plan. (Federal News Radio)

  • A Senate committee voted to freeze the number of non-emergency employees at the Homeland Security Department; contractors might be next. The freeze comes in an amendment to the 2012 DHS authorization bill introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The promise to consider capping contractors came from Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who said he's shocked by the number of contract employees at DHS. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Air Force plans to offer buyouts to 6,000 non-uniformed employees, using both voluntary separation payments and early retirement incentives to get people to leave. The Air Force must get its workforce down to 2010 levels, which translates into a 9 percent reduction in civilian ranks. A 90-day hiring freeze started a month ago. (Federal News Radio)

  • Meanwhile, GovExec reports the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will offer early outs to 400 workers at field offices and headquarters. Eligible employees have to make a decision by Oct. 14. (GovExec)

  • Reports of $16 muffins have stirred the Obama administration into action. OMB director Jack Lew ordered deputy secretaries to review conference spending, and until they do, they're under orders to personally sign off on conference expenses. Vice President Joe Biden, who backed up the order, promised to convene another Cut Government Waste cabinet meeting for a progress report. The moves follow a Justice Department inspector general report revealing what appeared to be excessive conference expenses. That report singled out expensive catering charges at Justice meetings throughout the county. (Federal News Radio)

  • GSA is nearly done moving all its employees to Google's Cloud email. Now, the agency wants to expand to other cloud services. GSA's Chief Information Officer Casey Coleman said she's turning her attention to moving to collaboration-as-a-service. GSA has hired Salesforce.com to host up to seven different collaboration tools including ones for project sharing and tracking notes, instead of hosting them separately on the agency's network.GSA is also looking to improve its legacy business systems, including financial management, human resources and government-wide platforms, such as Challenge.gov. (Federal News Radio)

  • Lawmakers are squaring off over a bill to fix the struggling Postal Service. A House subcommittee is considering dramatic reforms to USPS — part of legislation backed by House Republican but opposed by Democrats. The bill would let the Postal Service cut Saturday mail delivery, dramatically increase postage rates and charge employees more for health insurance. However, the plan differs from competing proposals from the White House and the Senate in two key ways: It would not let the Postal Service take back the $7 billion it overpaid into the federal retirement system. It would also set up a commission to reorganize the agency, rather than let the Postal Service restructure itself. (Federal News Radio)

  • Just how effective — and independent — are agency inspectors general? The Government Accountability Office was tasked by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act with assessing the status of IGs. GAO inspectors conducted a survey, and found that the IGs were able to remain independent, although their budgets were not always identified separately in the president's fiscal year 2011 budget submission. The reform requires they remain separate to enhance budget independence. (GAO)

  • A dead six-ton satellite is expected to smack down to Earth on Friday. Scientists will have a more precise time by this afternoon. An estimated 26 pieces — representing 1,200 pounds &mdsah; are expected to survive. The heaviest metal parts are expected to reach Earth, the biggest chunk weighing about 300 pounds. The debris could be scattered over an area about 500 miles long. However, NASA is anticipating a splashdown rather than a landing. (NASA)