Friday morning federal headlines - Sept. 21, 2012

Friday - 9/21/2012, 10:19am 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.

  • Federal employees will have to dig deeper next year to keep their healthcare coverage. Premiums will go up an average of 3.4 percent. Workers will have more choices however. The Office of Personnel Management will add five new plans to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. OPM says individual coverage will increase about $2.75 cents per pay period. Family coverage will increase $6.39. Open season for choosing a plan begins Nov. 12. (Federal News Radio)

  • House Republicans have introduced a bill to restructure NASA. Supporters say it would bring long-term stability to the space agency and take politics out of the process. The NASA administrator would serve a 10-year term, similar to the FBI and the National Science Foundation. A new board of directors would oversee the agency. But lawmakers and the White House would appoint board members. Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf says NASA has wasted more than $20 billion in cancelled programs over the last two decades. He blames cost overruns along with mismanagement and politics.(Congress)

  • The House has voted down a Republican-led bid to increase the number of highly educated foreign students admitted to work in the United States. The STEM Jobs Act would have increased the number of foreign students with math, science and engineering skills by 55,000 per year. It was supported by high tech companies. But the bill would have eliminated the Diverse Visa Lottery for less educated foreigners.(GAO)

  • Congressman Darrell Issa will propose a major rewrite of laws governing federal information technology. It would be the biggest overhaul in nearly 20 years. Issa's Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act would enact significant portions of the Obama administration's 25-point IT reform plan. The California Republican has not yet introduced the bill. He's circulating a draft among stakeholders. The bill would update the role and status of IT staff. CIOs would have control over IT budgets and personnel. Issa's draft also makes data center consolidation and cloud computing legal requirements for agencies.(Federal News Radio)

  • The Pentagon's inspector general says Arlington National Cemetery has rebounded from a scandal over mismanagement that led to the misidentification of graves. The IG says the cemetery is now a "premiere" institution that can set the standard for other federal cemeteries. The report credits the cemetery's new leaders, who took over following the scandal. The cemetery now uses geospatial technology to track its burials. Officials are nearly done verifying the names and dates on all the headstones and grave markers. More than 400,000 people are buried there, some dating back 150 years. (Federal News Radio)

  • With budget sequestration looking more likely, Defense officials are beginning to evaluate which weapons systems they'll trim. Until now, discussions have been general, focusing on across-the-board percentages. But Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told a House panel Thursday that within the next month Pentagon planners will be more specific. Hale says DoD brass have waited this long in hopes that Congress will act to avoid sequestration, Defense News reports. Sequestration would cut $1.2 trillion in spending over nine years — about half would fall on the Defense Department. President Obama has ruled personnel accounts exempt from the sequester so a greater proportion of the defense cuts would fall on weapons procurement. (Defense News)

  • The General Services Administration's Public Building Service could see its workforce reduced to 2008 levels. And GSA senior executives across the board could see their overall pay remain flat for the next two years. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management approved the Public Buildings Reform Act yesterday with these and other changes. (Federal News Radio)

  • If the federal government's automatic sequestration cuts kick in as scheduled in January, the Defense Department says it will avoid laying off civilian employees. But that doesn't mean civilian feds can breathe a sigh of relief. Military officials told the House Armed Services Committee that workers likely face a hiring freeze and unpaid furloughs to trim personnel costs. (Federal News Radio)