Thursday Morning Federal Newscast – May 13th

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear bigger pay raise for military service members, despite warnings against ballooning costs for the Defense Department. Congress Daily reports the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee gave the green light to a 1.9 percent pay hike next year. That’s a half-percent higher than what the president has asked for. The panel’s chair, Congresswoman Susan Davis, says it’s designed to tighten the gap between military and private sector pay, but senior defense leaders have warned that rising personnel costs are threatening operations and acquisition funds.

  • A federal grand jury has accused two people of stealing personal information on TSA workers at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Prosecutors say Michael Derring and Tina White lifted Social Security Numbers and other information with the help of a contractor who worked for TSA’s human resources department in the airport. Reuters reports the couple allegedly used the identities to set up accounts for electricity, cable tv, phone and other services. There’s no indication the personal details were passed on to militant groups that might be planning an attack.
  • Nine people were indicted yesterday on federal charges for accessing President Obama’s student loan records. All were employed by an Education Department contractor at Coralville, Iowa, when they sought the records between 2007, when Obama was a candidate, and 2009, after he was inaugurated. If convicted, the nine face up to a year in prison and fines of $100,000.
  • Alan Bersin, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, understated the number of household staff he employed, and didn’t properly document their eligibility to work in the U.S. That’s according to a Senate Finance Committee staff report issued yesterday. Bersin got the job in a recess appointment, and the report might hinder a permanent appointment, which requires Senate confirmation, according to GovExec.
  • The U.S. Postal Service’s top marketing executive is resigning. The news comes in the wake of an investigation into the executive awarding nearly $6 million dollars in controversial no-bid contracts to his former business associates. Postmaster General John Potter says that the Mailing and Shipping Services President Robert Bernstock is leaving to persure opportunities in the private sector. Bernstock joined USPS back in June of 2008. This is the second investigation into Bernstock’s spending. The Federal Times reports, Bernstock is credited with creating the new pricing incentives and marketing campaigns that helped grow mail volume and revenue.
  • The government’s spending plan for 2011 remains on hold. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad says getting floor time for the measure has been difficult. He tells Congress Daily that financial regulation reform and other priorities, like the war supplemental, could slow the budget resolution’s progress. Federal News Radio told you yesterday that Congress watchers say they wouldn’t be surprised if a continuing resolution would be needed to keep the government operating after the fiscal year funding expires at the beginning of October. Conrad says he’s uncertain whether the budget bill will pass even before the fiscal year ends in September.
  • A new study says contractors will take a $36 billion dollar hit in the President’s fiscal 2011 budget. That’s a nearly five percent decline in spending from this year. The cuts are largely a result of the rising cost of energy and health care combined with President Obama’s freeze on discretionary spending. FedSource, the market research firm behind the study, says government spending on contractors will remain relatively flat through fiscal year 2014, reports FederalTimes. Reduced contracting will mean fiercer competition for the contracts that are available.
  • New legislation would prohibit the government from awarding any contract, grant or loan to any company doing business with Iran. The bill would expand the 1996 Iran Sanction Act which restricts American firms from investing in Iran’s energy sector. GovExec reports that right now at least seven foreign companies that are doing business in Iran’s energy sector who have also won U.S. government contracts in the past five years. Senator Joseph Liberman (I-Conn) told the Homeland Security and Governmental Affair Committee that firms doing business with Iran need to make a choice about their business partners. The Defense Department says the contracts were critical to support mission requirements of worldwide military operations and were therefore not banned.
  • $2.5 billion in overpayments for the Medicare trust fund last year have been recovered as the Obama administration focused attention on fraud enforcement efforts in the health care industry.
  • It’s out — all 987 pages of it. Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut have produced a climate bill. The New York Times reports the bill aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and create new so-called green jobs. But the bill has little chance of passage this legislative session given limited Senate floor time. Also, no Republican senators support the bill, and polls show many Americans are skeptical about the costs of taking on global warming.
  • Are land-based phone lines disappearing from American homes? One in four households now has wireless phones only, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data cover the second half of 2009. Compared to earlier reports, the number of wireless-only homes is growing. Meanwhile, only 15 percent of households have only land lines. The majority still have both. Telephone trends have implications for government agency data gathering and emergency communications strategies.
  • A trio of former astronauts, including the first man to step on the moon, slammed President Obama’s plans for NASA. At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing yesterday, Neil Armstrong said the president was poorly advised in formulating the plan, which cancels the Constellation moon rocket program. Eugene Cernan, the last astronaut on the moon, called the plan a “blueprint for a mission to nowhere.” They were joined by Apollo 13 commander James Lovell. The president has said he hopes to send humans to Mars in the mid-2030s.
  • Women tired of waiting in line for restrooms in federal buildings may find some relief in the form of the 2010 Restroom Gender Parity in Federal Buildings Act. Yesterday, the bill got the seal of approval from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, reports GovExec. If enacted, it would require new or renovated federal buildings to have matching numbers of facilities for both genders.

  • More news links

    Pentagon shooting a ‘wake up call’

    Northrop gets $187M Navy carrier design contract

    Advertisement

    NASA clears Atlantis for final liftoff on Friday

    Rick Bayless, the Chicago Chef, to Prepare a State Dinner (NYTimes)

    THIS AFTERNOON ON FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

    Coming up today on The Daily Debrief:

    ** Are DOD employees overpaid? And is it possible to compare DoD pay to private sector jobs? The Government Accountability Office will give us their assessment.

    ** And those hiring reforms announced by OPM this week — what do they mean if you are federal manager? We’ll talk to Federal Manager’s Association.

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