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Wednesday morning federal headlines - June 27, 2012
Wednesday - 6/27/2012, 8:40am EDT
The cash-strapped Postal Service
could turn a profit if it became a bank. Outside the United States, postal
services get 22 percent of their revenues from personal banking services such as
credit cards. But the practice ended decades ago in the U.S. Still, one professor
who's studied the USPS financial problems thinks management should consider the
idea. Sheldon Garon of Princeton tells Federal News Radio, the Postal Service
ought to sell mutual funds and even small loans. But a Postal spokesman said the
United States has enough banks already. (Federal News Radio)
Several senators think the Pentagon is acting like an ostrich and they want to
pull its head out of the sand. The issue is sequestration and what would
happen if the military is hit by across-the-board budget cuts. Pentagon leaders
have no formal plans for sequestration. They believe it will never actually
happen. But Rep. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) wants to force the issue. She promised to
attach an amendment to, as she put it, every bill that walks. She promised to get
the sequestration plans out of the Defense Department line by line. Deputy Defense
Secretary Ashton Carter said planning for sequestration would be applying rational
thinking to the irrational. (Federal News Radio)
The Federal Aviation
Administration's contract to train air-traffic controllers is running out of
money and one lawmaker wants an explanation. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) sent a
letter to the FAA, noting that funding will run dry in August, more than a year
before the contract is supposed to end. McCaskill said the money crunch might
force the FAA to extend the deal without studying the costs or new training needs.
The FAA has paid the provider, Raytheon, at least $46 million more than expected.
With only 23 days to work until the end of the fiscal year, Congress is
running out of time to pass critical bills. Still unfinished is the
Hill's work on the 2013 budget, Postal Service reform and cybersecurity. The
calendar contains 96 days until Oct. 1, but Congress doesn't work Mondays,
Fridays, weekends or holidays. Plus it has recesses scheduled for August. The
House has passed six appropriations bills, with four more out of committee
awaiting debate. Senate committees have passed nine spending bills, but none have
passed the full chamber. The Senate passed FDA reauthorization yesterday.
(Federal News Radio)
It may be getting easier for military spouses to have careers despite moving
from base to base. First Lady Michelle Obama launched a campaign four months ago
to end this long-standing problem for military families. Yesterday, Illinois
became the 23rd state to enact a law recognizing professional licenses that
spouses have earned in other states. Nurses, teachers and other professionals who
require licenses to practice have had difficulty keeping up their career when they
move around so often. The White House estimated that 100,000 spouses serve in
professions that required state licenses. (White House)
According to an inspector general report, Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Chairman Gregory Jaczko bullied and intimidated fellow commissioners and
employees. The report concluded Jaczko created a tense working environment and was
particularly intimidating to women. The IG named 15 instances of bullying
behavior. It also said Jazcko was correct in seeing last year's Japanese nuclear
disaster as a threat to the United States. IG Hubert Bell reported Jazcko tried to
keep fellow commissioners informed during the crisis, but he attempted to control
the flow of information. Jazcko has announced his retirement, pending confirmation
of a successor. (Federal News Radio)
Federal corrections officers are patrolling with pepper spray for the first
time. The Bureau of Prisons is easing up on a no-weapons policy because of rising
violence in detention centers. McClatchy Newspapers
reported that several states
have let their guards carry pepper spray for years, but the feds have long
resisted. Managers have worried that inmates could grab the spray and use it
against the officers. But the 2008 murder of a guard in California helped change
officials' minds. Just seven federal prisons have instituted the policy.
Two local congressmen want to overhaul the Senior Executive Service.
Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) have introduced legislation
that would change the pay scale to benefit the top career feds. SES members'
performance awards and bonuses would count toward their retirement pay. It would
also limit the number of political appointees who could crowd out career feds for
top positions. But it stops short of requiring SES members to move from agency to
agency throughout their careers, a controversial idea that Moran has supported.
There's a similar bill in the Senate. (Federal News Radio)