Monday morning federal headlines – April 16, 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.

  • Two USDA headquarters buildings are closed today due to a power outage. Employees who work in the Whitten and South buildings do not need to come to the office today but should check on the buildings’ status tomorrow by calling the USDA status hotline or checking the status website. (Federal News Radio)
  • NASA put Angry Birds in space but you should beware if you decide to put them on your Android phone. Government Computer News reports malware infected versions of the popular game have been showing up in unofficial app stores. The software installs a trojan horse while masquerading as a working version of the game. NASA teamed up with Rovio Entertainment to take the wildly popular birds and pigs to another level by launching them into space to carry out their mission in a zero-gravity environment. (Government Computer News)
  • Five service members were confined to quarters after a scandal involving the Secret Service and possibly prostitutes. The military didn’t say why the service members are being held. But they were staying at the same Colombia hotel where 11 Secret Service agents were seen bringing women to their rooms. The agents were assigned to the area, before President Obama went to Colombia for a diplomatic mission. (Federal News Radio)
  • The World Meteorogical Organization retired the name “Irene” from the list of possible storm names. Storm names are usually reused every six years, but they decided not to recycle Irene because of the widespread damage and fatalities associated with the storm. The hurricane killed 49 people, covering a wide swath from the Dominican Republic to the Northeastern U.S. (NOAA)
  • The Agriculture Department defended its plan to reduce inspections at poultry plants. Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Alfred Almanza said the proposal would allow inspectors to focus on food-borne illnesses. He wrote a blog post in response to widespread fears that the plan could endanger food safety. Almanza said the proposal came after 13 years of study. It would save USDA $90 million over three years and cut up to 800 government inspectors. (USDA)
  • Congress is returning to Capitol Hill with a full slate of things to do and much uncertainty about whether those things would get done. With elections just a few months away, budget analysts predicted more gridlock and short-term spending measures. Both a budget resolution and agency appropriations are on that to-do list. Federal employees’ pay and benefits may hang in the balance too. (Federal News Radio)
  • Disgraced General Services Administration officials will testify on Capitol Hill this afternoon, but they’re not expected to say much about the spending that has outraged lawmakers. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee called the first of four hearings this week. The Public Buildings Service regional commissioner at the center of a lavish Las Vegas conference will appear. But Jeff Neely isn’t expected to say much to lawmakers. He may plead the fifth, as the GSA inspector general has asked the Justice Department to investigate criminal charges against him. IG Brian Miller and former GSA Administrator Martha Johnson also are expected at the hearing. (Federal News Radio)

    A bill to reform the Hatch Act could get a hearing this week. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is pushing his Oversight and Government Reform Committee to consider the Hatch Act Modernization Act. The bill would give the government new options for dealing with feds who break the rules about political activity. It would also let state and local government employees run for elective office. Cummings is the committee’s ranking member. He’s written a letter to Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asking the panel to consider the bill in its Wednesday business meeting. (