Wednesday Morning Federal Newscast – April 28th

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear closer to a memo that promotes using résumés in place of knowledge, skills and abilities essays. According to a senior human capital official, the document is almost complete and will soon be ready for approval from the White House.

  • The government’s former top protector of whistle-blowers pleads guilty to withholding information from Congress. Former Special Counsel Scott Bloch faces a maximum yearlong prison term. Bloch has been accused of holding back information on his decision to delete data from government computers. He has also faced civil suits for allegedly retaliating against his own employees.
  • The House today takes up a bill designed to crack down waste in government. The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act would require the head of each federal agency to review programs and activities every three fiscal years. The goal is to identify programs that are susceptible to significant improper payments. Among other things, the measure would also expand reporting requirements.
  • A congressman has accused VA Secretary Eric Shinseki of a pattern of noncompliance with requests for information about veteran suicides. Democratic Representative Harry Mitchell of Arizona was unhappy that VA’s national suicide prevention coordinator, rather than Shinseki himself, was made available for a hearing — which Mitchell eventually canceled. He sent the secretary a letter demanding an explanation.
  • The troubled Defense Travel System may never be fixed unless there are drastic changes in the rules themselves about DOD travel. There are simply too many rules to be accommodated in an online reimbursement system. That’s according to David Fisher, director of DOD’s Business Transformation Agency, speaking to lawmakers yesterday, reports the FederalTimes. There are 76 varieties of trips defined by DOD, and the system can only handle 61 of them. He called to legislation to enable DOD to simplify its travel policies and their more than 2,000 rules.
  • Unmanned aerial drones could soon fly over Texas. New “predator bees” have the capability to fly at altitudes used by commercial aircraft, and are designed to enhance intelligence capabilities of federal, state and local law enforcement. The San Antonio Express-News reports Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate hearing that over the past 15 months, federal law enforcement initiatives have made the border more secure than in any other time in history. Analysis of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles finds that they are twice as likely to crash as manned aircraft, so there are still issues to be worked out.
  • The warship LPD 26 may be named after Congressman John Murtha, but the decision is drawing some fire from opponents to the move. The Navy Times reports that people reacting to the announcement formed a Facebook group called “People Against Naming A Navy Ship USS Murtha”. The site had about 1,300 members as of Monday morning, and has become a clearinghouse for angry comments and homemade cartoons criticizing Murtha. The Navy was getting angry responses even on its own official website. The negative reaction surrounds Murtha’s opposition to the Iraq War and his accusations toward Marines in 2005 who he accused of killing Iraqis in cold blood. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus both support naming the San Antonio class vessel after Congressman Murtha.
  • President Barack Obama’s top budget adviser, Peter Orszag, said on Tuesday that the U.S. government must significantly alter its policies in order to tackle a growing mountain of debt. Orszag warned that huge deficits could cause the market to lose confidence in a government’s creditworthiness. Reuters reports that Orszag made the remarks at the meeting of the new 18 member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The group will be making recommendations for deficit reduction to the President.
  • How do we get out of our nation’s debt crisis? Shared sacrifice. That’s the word from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in an Op-Ed today in The Wall Street Journal. He says politicians need to be honest with Americans about the realities of the debt, rather than making blanket promises never to raise their taxes. He also says more than 90 percent of the projected deficit over the next decade is the result of the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the financial bailout of late 2008, and lower revenues from the recession.
  • Nearly a year after 10 agencies stopped using the “Find” function of, the Office of Management and Budget is ordering all of them back to the governmentwide portal. OMB Director Peter Orszag sent a memo Friday to agency secretaries telling them to make sure their agencies are fully using by April 30. In the 2011budget passback OMB gave to agencies, its goal was to have agencies back to by March 31. The memo gives no reason for the one-month delay in moving agencies back to the portal. OMB moved 10 of the largest grant making agencies off of the portal last March because of concern it could not handle the influx of applications expected because of the Recovery Act.
  • Federal workers without a FaceBook page, take note. A social networking sight under development at the General Services Administration might help. Dubbed FedSpace, the new site will be aimed at helping feds communicate with one another and share information. Tiffany Smith of the State Department has been detailed to the GSA to work on FedSpace, which will make its debut in the fall. She described the project at a conference in Washington.
  • DC Congresswoman Eleanor Homes Norton is criticizing the US Park Police for how they handled a protest outside the White House. Witnesses say Park Police officers pushed reporters and made them move across Lafayette park during the demonstration. A group of military personnel handcuffed themselves to a White House gate to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Norton says she was “shocked” by video of the incident which occurred last week. She told Newschannel 8 the Park Police officers must have received “horrible training.” A spokesman for the Park Police has acknowledged the officers made a mistake and noted they were relatively new members of the department.
  • Are you a Civil War buff? Consider heading down to the National Mall. The National Archives is displaying seldom-seen documents from its vaults as part of the most extensive Civil War exhibit it’s ever done. Visitors will be able to see such documents as the original Virginia ordinance of secession. And while the original Emancipation Proclamation is rarely shown, it will be displayed for three days in November as part of the exhibit. “Discovering the Civil War” opens to the public on Friday.

  • More news links

    Coast Guard acts quickly on diversity, but not without implementation problems (WashingtonPost)

    EPA slapped for being tardy with contractor evaluations (WashingtonTechnology)


    Outsourcing has gone too far, official says (FCW)

    GSA seeks nearly 200,000 s.f. in Woodlawn (Baltimore Business Journal)

    Napolitano: Ariz. law could stretch fed resources

    Ex-homeland chief uncomfortable with Arizona law

    Former top diplomats defend foreign affairs budget

    Coast Guard considers lighting oil spill on fire

    No butts about it: Navy subs to ban smoking