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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been debating a short-term funding plan for weeks but are still far apart. Looking to avert a government shutdown this week, Congress is expected to approve a three-week stopgap measure this week to buy more time for negotiations on a longer-term bill. Without an agreement, current funding expires this Friday.
The Defense Department has developed a 13-page contingency plan for how it would operate should a government shutdown occur. Federal Times reports the memo was drafted shortly before Congress approved a two-week continuing resolution to funds the government through this Friday. The memo states, all military personnel would have to work without pay. But many civilian employees would be furloughed. Exceptions would include acquisition staff supporting wartime activities. Budget work for exempt activities would continue. Contracted work for which money was fully obligated would also be exempt from shutdown. The AirForceTimes notes troops would miss a payday only if the shutdown continues through April 1.
A spending plan approved by the House would slash funding for a tsunami warning center that issued an alarm after the devastating earthquake in Japan. The plan approved by the GOP-controlled House last month would trigger deep cuts for the National Weather Service, including the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii. A union representing workers at the tsunami center said the proposed cuts could result in furloughs and rolling closures of National Weather Service offices.
The U.S. Agency for International Development is deploying two Urban Search and Rescue teams to assist in search and rescue efforts in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. Also, the State Department is advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Japan for now. In a travel alert issued Sunday, the State Department urged all non-essential U.S. government personnel to defer travel to Japan. The State Department also says Americans should avoid tourism and other unnecessary visits to Japan for now. The U.S. Ambassador declared an emergency which opened up an immediate funding of $100,000 from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. They set up a Response Management Team in DC and sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Tokyo. FEMA also used its Twitter feed to post links to tsunami advisories for specific regions. It also included preparedness tips and live streaming from inside state emergency centers on the West Coast.
The United States is sharing its expertise in dealing with Japan’s nuclear emergency. But U.S. warships and planes helping the relief efforts have moved away from Japan’s Pacific coast because of low-level radiation from a stricken nuclear power plant. The U.S. disaster response team sent to Tokyo includes people with nuclear expertise from the Departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC members are experts in boiling water nuclear reactors.
Tests detected low levels of radioactivity on 17 U.S. Navy helicopter crew members when they returned to the USS Ronald Reagan after conducting disaster relief missions in Japan, the military said Monday. CNN reports no further contamination was detected after the crew members washed with soap and water, the Navy said.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has resigned. His departure followed comments about how the military is treating Bradley Manning, the private accused of leaking classified material to the WikiLeaks web site. Crowley called the detention conditions ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid. He made the comments during a speech to a small group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. President Obama was forced to defend the treatment. Manning has been held in a maximum security facility at the Marine Corps base in Quanitco, Virginia.
Eighty percent of federal employees and 76 percent of contractors now have Personal Verification ID cards on hand. The latest numbers on the PIV cards coming from the Office of Management and Budget. OMB says 3.7 million federal employees were issued the PIV cards as of Dec. 1st, 2010. Nine executive branch agencies say they have completed PIV card issuance, putting the cards into the hands of 100 percent of their workers and contractors. That includes the Social Security Administration, State Department, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. All agencies must develop plans by March 31 to fully implement the use of secure identity cards under Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12.
Dozens of federal agencies are struggling to meet President Barack Obama’s 2-year-old order to respond more quickly and thoroughly to Freedom of Information Act requests. Analysis by the Associated Press finds the Obama administration handled fewer requests for federal records from citizens, journalists and companies in 2010, even as more people asked for information. There were more than 544,000 FOIA requests last year, up nearly 41,000 from 2009. But the government took action on 12,000 fewer requests.
The Agriculture Department launches a project to map community gardens across the country. The People’s Gardens database is what Secretary Tom Vilsack calls a showcase of local efforts to grow vegetables. The interactive map will list locations of gardens, the names of people involved, and photos of their efforts. USDA’s People’s Gardens initiative encourages employees and anyone else to volunteer time in cultivating gardens. The gardening initiative itself dates to 2009, started on the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.