Wednesday morning federal headlines - Dec. 14, 2011

Wednesday - 12/14/2011, 7:58am EST

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 Postal Service has agreed to a five-month moratorium on post office closures, Associated Press reports. Lawmakers say USPS officials agreed to push back the closings to give them time to pass legislation to help the Postal Service get back on track before the end of the fiscal year. The Postal Service lost more than $5 billion in fiscal year 2011 and says it needs to shed about $20 billion dollars in annual costs by 2015. (Associated Press)

  • Agencies told the administration about the many ways they are cutting waste and saving money. The Treasury says it will save $50 million a year by scaling back the minting of presidential gold coins. It has more than a billion uncirculated coins sitting in warehouses, because the public doesn't seem to want to use them. By law the Mint must issue four new presidential coins a year, but now it will only cast enough of them to meet collector demand. Health and Human Services officials details new ways to cut Medicare and Medicaid fraud. (Federal News Radio)

  • The House passed its version of a bill to extend the middle-class payroll tax cut. But the measure was called dead on arrival by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D). The Republican-led House bill would freeze federal pay for another year and jack up federal employee contributions to their retirement system. It also contained an amendment ordering construction of a controversial oil pipeline. Now Democrats are threatening to withhold votes for an omnibus spending bill until differences over the payroll tax bill are resolved. Without the spending bill, the government faces a shutdown this Friday at midnight. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Office of Management and Budget is renewing calls for agencies to combine common IT requirements. It's ordered agencies to choose two commodity technology services and move them to shared-service providers. The goal is to save money by cutting duplication. Agencies have until next December to complete the consolidation. The orders came as part of the so-called 2013 budget pass-back guidance obtained by Federal News Radio. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Navy is taking a different look at curing post-traumatic stress disorder. Wired.com reports a doctor says he has developed an injection for the neck that can cure PTSD. The Pentagon has turned down Dr. Eugene Lipov four times for research funding, but now the Navy is going to give it a test run. Capt. Anita Hickey, director of Integrative Pain Medicine at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, has gotten $100,000 to test Lipov's method. (Wired.com)

  • The federal government is lending it's weight to the idea of banning texting and cell-phoning while driving. The National Transportation Safety Board has unanimously recommended states adopt new safety measures against distractions caused by electronics. The recommendation was embraced by the Governors Highway Safety Association. NTSB chairwoman Debra Hersman says states should work to change drivers' habits, just like they tackled seatbelt and anti drunk driving campaigns. The Board's recommendations came following investigation of a fatal pileup in Missouri caused by a texting driver. (Federal News Radio)

  • Small Business Innovation Research Awards are about to be expanded to include venture capital firms. The Washington Business Journal reports the controversy over VC firms dates back to 2003, when a judge ruled that VC firms, even if they're small businesses, don't qualify for SBIR awards. The reason? They're not independently owned. Now, lawmakers have reached an agreement to reauthorize the SBIR program for six years, including venture capital firms.The National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation will be allowed to award up to 25 percent of their SBIR funds to VC-owned firms. (Washington Business Journal)