Monday morning federal headlines - May 7, 2012

Monday - 5/7/2012, 8:58am EDT

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp 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.

  • Hiring managers at the Air Force will now have to make decisions in half as much time. As of May 1, there is a 15-day time-frame in place for selecting civilian new hires. This is part of a larger strategy to hire within 80 days. An online resource center acts as a one-stop-shop for hiring managers. It offers tips for selecting candidates and video tutorials on the 80-day hiring process. (Federal News Radio)

  • A new way to invest is open to federal employees starting today, but you may not be able to sign up just yet. The Roth option lets you put after-tax dollars into the Thrift Savings Plan. Regular contributions are pre-tax. Not all federal payroll systems are programmed for the Roth option. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service said it will have to phase in the Roth option for the defense and civilian agencies it handles. The Interior Department's National Business Center said last month it would be ready. (Federal News Radio)

  • The family of John F. Kennedy is honoring the U.S. ambassador to Syria for risking his life to encourage democracy, the Associated Press reported. Robert Ford will receive the Profile in Courage Award later today in Massachusetts. The Kennedy family said Ford traveled around Syria to support peaceful protests against President Basher Assad. All the while, Ford ignored threats to his own life. He has since left Syria and continues his work from Baltimore. JFK's daughter Caroline Kennedy said she hopes Ford's example will serve as a role model for other public servants. She is also giving the award to three Iowa judges who were ousted for their decision to legalize same-sex marriage. (Associated Press)

  • The White House has released a second round of advice for how government and its contractors can communicate more freely. A new memo from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy is expected today. It will outline eight myths plus eight realities to dispose of them. The so-called Mythbusters 2 is signed by acting procurement chief Lesley Field. One of the big myths is that potential contractors may not talk to the government during market research. The new memo emphasized industry misconceptions. The original 2010 Mythbusters memo dealt with myths held by government. (Federal News Radio)

  • Congress returns today, and the House will take up an alternative to sequestration. The Budget committee will vote on a Republican-backed plan to trim some social welfare programs but restore planned cuts to the military. Federal workers would have to contribute an additional 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions. A floor vote could come by Thursday. Under existing law, starting in January automatic budget cuts begin under sequestration. Half of the 10-year, $1 trillion cuts would come from the Defense Department. (Federal News Radio)

  • A long-time critic of the Internal Revenue Service's whistleblower program is now investigating conference spending. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wants to know why the IRS sent the director of its whistleblower program and 18 other employees to the Ritz-Carlton in Miami for an event meant for offshore financiers and investigators. Grassley asked the IRS to provide details on who authorized the travel and how much they paid for each attendee. Grassley said he receives regular letters from whistleblowers frustrated that the agency isn't investigating their claims. He said it indicated his "worst fears are coming true" about the program. (Senate.gov)

  • How much does it cost to tear down a nuclear reactor? Much more than the government thinks. The New York Times got a peak at a Government Accountability Office study slated for release today. It said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's estimate of how much it would cost to decommission a site and bury radioactive parts was off by as much as $350 million at one place. GAO looked at a dozen reactors in all. It found estimates at five to be off significantly. The NRC requires plant owners to have enough cash on hand for decommissioning the plant, but GAO said the agency doesn't have clear procedures to track that money. The report suggested the NRC was requiring plants to have less money than they would need. (The New York Times)