Friday morning federal headlines - March 9, 2012

Friday - 3/9/2012, 7:59am EST

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive host Tom Temin 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.

  • Veterans Affairs said it would change contractor procedures to prevent grave markers from being moved to the wrong spots. Undersecretary Steve Muro outlined the changes to members of Congress. Contractors would be told to leave stones nearby when renovating gravesites, and VA staff would conduct daily inspections. VA has found 249 mismarked graves among the 1.5 million it's inspected. Most mistakes occurred at San Francisco National Cemetery and Golden Gate National Cemetery in California. (Federal News Radio)

  • The White House has launched another new website — Ethics.gov/. Content on the site consists of data sets from Data.gov. So far, seven data sets are available at Ethics.gov, including White House visitor records, lobbying disclosures and Federal Election Commission reports. Visitors will also find information about payments from outside groups to fund federal employee travel to meetings and conferences. The White House said in a blog, never before has so much government-verified ethics information been gathered in one place. (Ethics.gov)

  • Two senators said the Pentagon should garnish payments to contractors who owe back taxes. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this week that said servicemembers who owe back taxes already can have their wages garnished. They said the same rules should apply to contractors. Their concern was sparked by a recent media report that DoD had awarded a $20 million information operations contract to a vendor whose owners owed $4.5 million in delinquent taxes. (Ethics.gov)

  • A move is afoot in Congress to penalize federal managers who don't make their agencies' small business contracting goals. Federal Times reported a bill passed by the House Small Business Committee yesterday would withhold annual bonuses from senior executives when their agency falls short of its small business target. It would also increase government-wide small business contracting goals from 23 percent to 25 percent. In 2010, the government missed that 23 percent goal by three-tenths of a percentage point. (Federal Times)

  • The Labor Department is taking steps to make sure figures from its big monthly jobs report don't get leaked ahead of time. Labor has commissioned a study by Sandia National Laboratories to look into the media's access to the reports. Reporters who cover labor are given advance access to the numbers in a secure facility with no Internet access, so the numbers can't be leaked ahead of time. Labor said the study wasn't prompted by any specific leak. The concern is advance notice of the job figures could give traders an unfair leg up on Wall Street, which reacts immediately to the monthly figures. (Federal News Radio)

  • China is sending a flood of counterfeit IDs to the United States, creating havoc for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. NextGov reported the IDs include drivers licenses, Social Security numbers and fake identity papers. ICE Director John Morton told a congressional committee the phony IDs can be downloaded from the Internet. ICE is seeking more money in 2013 for cyber forensics and information sharing with the Justice Department. (NextGov)

  • The Senate passed a provision to let federal workers go part time as they near retirement. The reduced pay would help offset rural development costs contained in the Surface Transportation Bill. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) offered the amendment, which passed 82 to 16. The amendment drew the ire of two federal employee unions. The National Treasury Employees Union said it supported phased retirements, but objected to having the savings used in a way that doesn't benefit federal employees. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) opposed the amendment, saying the Senate is using federal employees as a piggy bank. (Federal News Radio)

  • Veterans Affairs launched a probe into how the department managed its use of reverse auctions. Federal Computer Week reported VA acquisition officials ordered a full stop on the use of reverse auctions on March 3. The Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Contracting will conduct an in-depth examination of two dozen auction contracts to look for problems in how they were awarded. VA has said the technique was causing significant disruptions in the VA supply chain. (Federal Computer Week)

  • Federal Trade Commission members objected to a plan to force the agency out of its historic building. The four members, two from each party, wrote to John Mica, chairman of the House committee on transportation and infrastructure, calling the plan a $100 million giveaway. Mica wants to move the FTC to leased space and the National Gallery of Art into the FTC building. FTC Commissioner Jon Liebovitz said it would be the first time an agency was evicted from a federally-owned building that suits it. The structure at 600 Pennsylvania Ave. was built during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration specifically for the FTC. (FTC)