Monday morning federal headlines – Oct. 3

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 users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Federal Aviation Administration employees who were furloughed for two weeks this summer will get their back pay included in their Oct. 18th checks. Transportation Department lawyers decided legislation is not needed to authorize the make-up money. A sponsor of back pay legislation, Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), hailed the department’s decision. More than 4,000 workers were furloughed during a Congressional standoff over reauthorizing the FAA in August. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Records and Archives Administration is moving to the next phase of development for its Electronic Record Archive system. NARA has hired IBM under a 10-year, $240 million contract to handle the operations and maintenance (O&M) phase of the program. The records system has been six years in development. (Federal News Radio)
  • Phil Bond is leaving TechAmerica after five-and-a-half years as the industry association’s president. TechAmerica has named Daniel Varroney as interim CEO. Bond told Federal News Radio he is joining a start-up lobbying firm on Nov. 1. Bond joined TechAmerica when it was the Information Technology Association of America, and he presided over its merger with three other trade groups. (Federal News Radio)
  • It was too windy for engineers to keep working on the Washington Monument last week, the National Park Service said in a release. The service will reassess the conditions today. The engineers will rappel down the outside of the monument to inspect for earthquake damage. On Saturday, one of the rappelling engineers was blown about 30 feet off the monument’s face by a strong gust of wind. He wasn’t hurt, but that forced the team to make changes to the safety plan. The exterior inspection began on Wednesday. (National Park Service)
  • The Census Bureau and the Postal Service have shown that they work well together. Now, the Government Accountability Office says the two agencies should try to work together more often, according to the agency’s latest report. Both agencies are facing challenges: The Postal Service needs to boost its bottom line, and Census needs to keep costs of the next count down while maintaining accuracy. Census and USPS are already teaming up for the 2020 Census. They’re updating the Census Bureau’s master list of addresses, which could mean fewer workers going door-to-door. GAO recommended that Commerce and USPS consider expanding their collaboration to include recruiting mail carriers — including retirees — for the 2020 Census. (GAO)
  • It was a year end blow-out. Federal agencies rushed to award their unused spending authority to beat the end of fiscal 2011 last Friday. The Energy Department finalized at least half a dozen loan guarantees to solar power projects, while the Education department awarded remaining grant money to encourage minority enrollment in colleges and universities. Even the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation — which manages water resources in the west — beat the deadline by awarding $7.4 million to a Baltimore company to construct buildings in Nevada.
  • Undeterred by the Solyndra scandal, the Energy Department has approved $4.9 billion in loan guarantees to solar power projects. The department beat the end of the fiscal year by hours, and the bulk of the money went to projects in California. They include a 250-megawatt photovoltaic plant in San Luis Obispo and a 230 megawatt plant in North Los Angeles County. One loan guarantee covers the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roofs of buildings in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Energy is also backing a cellulose ethonol plant in Hugoton, Kansas, not far from Dodge City. In the Solyndra case, the company went bankrupt and laid off 1,000 workers after accepting $535 million in federal loan guarantees. (Energy Department
  • It’s about to get a lot cozier in some federal offices. A House committee is lowering the limit on the average square footage workers will get under new office leases, Federal Times reports. The new average will be 157 square feet — down 20 percent from the 200 square feet limit in effect for a decade. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has the final say-so over leases negotiated by the General Services Administration. The calculation for personal space includes most common areas such as conference rooms and cafeterias. However, it does not include restrooms, closets and stairwells. A new lease at 1800 G Street in Northwest Washington, D.C., gives State, Justice and VA workers 155 square feet each. New leases for the State Department will give workers 156. A lease in New York will give Homeland Security Department workers a stingy 138 square feet per person. (Federal Times)
  • NASA’s MESSENGER probe is providing a closer-than-ever look at the planet Mercury. It turns out, Mercury has plenty in common with Earth, such as lava flows, hills and valleys. But Mercury is pretty weird, too. Even though there are lava flows, no volcanoes are visible. Scientists believe the source of the lava is buried under the flow. MESSENGER — which stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft — looped around the inner solar system 15 times over six years before beginning its orbits around the planet on March 18. Click here for pictures. (NASA)

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