Thursday Morning Federal Newscast – April 29th

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear $80 million increase is for two acquisition-related initiatives. GSA Administrator Martha Johnson said Wednesday at a House budget hearing that GSA is requesting $21 million to modernize government-wide information systems used for managing federal purchases of goods and services. Another $25 million would fund a new program intended to improve training for federal acquisition employees, address skills gaps in the workforce and enhance mentoring within the acquisition community.

  • A major overhaul of procurement in the Defense Department cleared a hurdle. The House yesterday passed the IMPROVE Acquisition Act by a 417 to 3 vote. The bill ties salaries, bonuses and promotions of purchasing officials to performance on contracts. A new office — Performance Assessment and Root Cause Analysis — would be responsible for performance metrics. The bill was based on recommendations of a House Armed Services Committee panel that reviewed DOD procurement over the last year.
  • Foreign companies working for the federal government might one day face criminal prosecution for acts committed overseas. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has passed a bill that would require those companies to consent to “personal jurisdiction” in American federal courts. Government Executive reports the bill would provide legal protection for federal employees, service members and American contract workers who allege an overseas company caused bodily injury, death and rape or sexual assault. Companies that do not show up in court could face debarment or suspension from doing business with the government.
  • The House approves a bill designed to put a stop on improper payments. The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act passed Wednesday by a voice vote reports GovExec. The measure requires agencies to recover nearly $100 billion dollars that have been flagged as being misspent. Agencies would also penalize agencies that repeatedly fail to correct mistakes. The bill now moves to the Senate for a vote.
  • A new strategy outline details how the the Army will become a more agile force to meet a range of possible conflicts. The 2010 Army Modernization Strategy, released yesterday, describes a new model for how the Army recruits, organizes itself, and applies force. The strategy also addresses how the Army is overhauling the Future Combat Systems project to better support a brigade-based structure. Lieutenant General Robert Lennox, deputy chief of staff, was principal author of the 91-page strategy.
  • Federal leaders working on the expansion of high-speed Internet in the US are defending their multi-billion dollar projects. A Democrat on the Senate Small Business Committee raised concerns Tuesday that the Agriculture and Commerce Departments are wasting money on broadband infrastructure projects. Specifically, that both departments are funding projects that are unnecessary or duplicate effort. But Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling says those claims are not serious objections. And NextGov reports the Agriculture Department’s Jonathan Adelstein echoed the sentiment. The projects are part of the $7.2 billion dollar broadband stimulus program.
  • FEMA has launched a new mobile Web site. The site makes it easier to access critical information regarding emergency preparedness and what to do before and after a disaster using a smartphone. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the service the new site is laid out in a user friendly, question and answer format, providing users with the answers to their top questions, such as: What should I do in a disaster and where can I find assistance. FEMA is planning to make enhancements to m.fema.gov in the coming months. They’ll add the ability to apply for individual assistance in a disaster and the ability to check the status of an application or update an existing application.
  • Wind power might finally be coming from off the coast of Massachusetts. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave the green light to the Cape Wind project, planned for Nantucket Sound. It would be the nation’s first offshore windmill farm. The private group hoping to build the wind farm still needs to secure financing. First proposed in 2001, Cape Wind has been tied up in legal challenges despite also being approved by the EPA. When built, it will deliver enough electricity to power 200,000 homes.
  • The military’s top officer is depending on the kindness of philanthropists to help military veterans. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen said community organizations are in the best position to identify veterans in need and to use agility and innovation to help them. The Chairman was speaking to the Council on Foundations at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado. He called today’s veterans “an American treasure,” who go off to war without questioning the decision, yet “come back as changed people.” And, their families, he said, also are “changed in ways they could not have imagined.”

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    THIS AFTERNOON ON FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

    Coming up today on The Daily Debrief:

    ** How do you make government COOL again? The federal CIO Council has been asking that question. They’ve come up with some ideas and we’ll talk to them about it.

    ** Yes, ants ruin picnics, but they just might make your agency more cyber-secure. Digital ants anyway. We’ll talk to the cyber-security scientist from one of the Energy Department’s national laboratories.

    Join us from 3 to 7 pm on 1500 AM or on your computer.

    And Finally…

    A little more sunlight is streaming into an alley in Northwest, DC after a large kitchen ventilation shaft toppled yesterday, damaging two vehicles and causing a bit of a scare for people working in the area. The vent shaft, which was connected to the 1800 Café on “N” Street, began to sway back and forth at about 10:30 yesterday morning before crashing to the ground below. No one was hurt when the ventilation shaft fell into the alley. Employees from the Sunlight Foundation posted the video to YouTube.