Thursday morning federal headlines – Sept. 27, 2012

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

  • The Postal Service says it will default on a scheduled $5.6 billion payment to the Treasury Department. The payment is for future retiree benefits. USPS says mail delivery will not be affected by the missed payment. And it says pay and benefits of current employees and retirees are also not affected. USPS missed a similar payment in August. The Postal Service lost $5 billion in the last quarter. Congress has been unable to agree on a Postal reform plan. Postal officials have said that large pre-payments of future retiree benefits are a significant cause of its cash crunch.(USPS)
  • The Army says it will not be business-as-usual today. Nearly all soldiers are taking a break from their regular duties to talk about suicide and what can be done to prevent it. Counselors will explain how troops can get help and will try to break down the stigmas that can prevent soldiers from seeking that help. The Army “stand down” is in reaction to a rise in suicides among soldiers. Troops in combat or serving other critical tasks will remain on duty and they will receive the training when possible.(Federal News Radio)
  • Federal employees looking for a job outside the government now have a new resource. officially launched yesterday. It promises to link former feds with government contracting positions. Rather than ask job seekers to post a resume, it asks questions about their security clearance, certifications and licenses. A former Pentagon human resources officer created the site. Well-known contractors have posted ads seeking web developers, recruiters and even electricians.(
  • The White House is putting the finishing touches on its cybersecurity executive order. But it’s already testing some of the ideas in the real world. It has launched two pilot programs to see how sharing cybersecurity information with the private sector would work. The Energy and Homeland Security Departments are working with electric utilities to establish cybersecurity standards. They call the effort, the Electricity Subsector Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model. Michael Daniel, the White House cyber coordinator, says state and local officials also might join the information-sharing effort. (Federal News Radio)
  • “No Easy Day” may be the hottest book right now about the Pentagon’s work but officials are telling employees to ignore it, according to an internal memo. The memo directs Defense staff not to discuss the tell-all book about the death of Osama bin Laden. That order also includes online conversations: No Tweeting, posting on Facebook or using any other social media to discuss the contents. But the memo says employees can buy a copy and read it until the Department identifies which sections contain “classified statements.” A former Navy SEAL wrote the book. Pentagon officials say he did not submit it for their review as is required by his non-disclosure agreement. (Washington Post)
  • The American Civil Liberties Union is tired of waiting for the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to explain how they use license-plate data and has filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts. The civil rights group in July requested documents from various agencies under the Freedom of Information Act but has received no records. The agencies have not explained the delay. The ACLU wants to know what the agencies do with data from license plate readers, small cameras posted at intersections and elsewhere that can record up to 1,800 license plates a minute.(ACLU)
  • The State Department says it will ease the ban on products from Myanmar. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the change just before she met with Myanmar President Thein Sein at the U.N. general assembly meeting in New York. Sein promised to continue democratic reforms in the long-oppressed country, formerly known as Burma. Clinton said she hoped normalizing of relations between the two countries would help Myanmar sell more goods in the U.S. market. Myanmar produces precious gems that luxury goods producers have refused to import because of poor working conditions in Burmese mines.(State Department)
  • The National Park Service has named a contractor to repair the Washington Monument. The company is a subsidiary of Tutor Perini Corp., which built the Ronald Reagan Building, the largest federal building in D.C. The $9.6 million contract will require building scaffolding around the monument that will stay up for at least a year. The scaffolding will begin to go up in about two months. Perini will fix the stonework that was damaged by last year’s earthquake. It will seal cracks and strengthen the tower with metal brackets. Including work already completed, the repairs will total $15 million. Half of that is coming from the federal treasury and a D.C.- area businessman has donated the rest.(Federal News Radio)
  • A former defense contract employee has been convicted of exporting military technology trade secrets to China. Sixing Liu worked for Space and Navigation, a division of L-3 Communications in New Jersey. He was charged with taking restricted military data and presenting it at two conferences in China. A federal jury found him guilty on nine counts, including exporting defense information without a license. He was was acquitted on two counts of lying to federal authorities. Liu could face up to 20 years in prison and possible deportation.(Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration will test new technologies to help with an old problem: How to reduce energy and water use in federal buildings. Under the Green Proving Ground program, GSA will try products like intelligent power strips to control electronic devices employees plug in. Lawn sprinklers will be equipped with sensors to tell if the roots are dry. Self-darkening windows will automatically screen out bright sunlight to reduce air conditioning costs. Dorothy Robyn, the new commissioner of the Public Buildings Service at GSA, says the technologies that work best will be rolled out to federal buildings nationwide.(Federal News Radio)

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