Tuesday Morning Federal Newscast – May 18th

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Thrift Savings Plan accounts garnished by the IRS. That prediction comes from the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board executive director Gregory Long. He cites a recent Justice Department ruling confirming that IRS should be allowed to take TSP accounts to cover delinquent taxes. Federal Times reports Long believes the IRS would win a lawsuit against the Board to seize accounts.

  • A bill that would provide benefits for federal employees’ same-sex partners might be in trouble on Capitol Hill. The Congressional Budget Office says the legislation would cost $310 million dollars through 2020; by 2015 direct spending would be increased by more than $100-million dollars. The Washington Post reports that most of the increase would come from higher health insurance costs through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
  • Maybe the third time is the charm. The White House says the president will nominate FBI Deputy Director John Pistole to head the Transportation Security Administration. The president has struggled to fill the top job at TSA, and has called the job the most important unfilled position on the president’s team. You might recall the President’s first choice for that post was Erroll Southers, who withdrew his nomination; then President Obama nominated Retired Army Major General Robert Harding, but he also withdrew over questions about his past as a defense contractor. This third nominee, Pistole, has been with the FBI since 1983. He’s been deputy director since 2004. (For an earlier interview of Erroll Southers and his advice for any TSA nominee on the Daily Debrief March 9th, click here.)
  • Former National Institutes of Health director Dr. Harold Varmus was nominated by President Barack Obama to return to his former agency, this time as head of the National Cancer Institute. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that cancer research is poised to move forward at an unprecedented speed. Dr. Varmus received the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for studies of the genetic basis of cancer. He has been president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City since January 2000.
  • Chris Oynes, who oversees offshore drilling programs at the federal Minerals Management Service, will retire at the end of the month, becoming the Interior Department’s first casualty of the Gulf oil spill. Oynes has been criticized as too cozy with the oil industry.
  • Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, the federal government’s point man on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, might stay in his gulf role after his planned May 25 retirement date. The incoming commandant, Admiral Robert Papp, said Allen could be recalled from retirement or simply have his active duty extended, according to Federal Times. Allen had announced his retirement before the April 20 spill. He was designated the national incident commander by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
  • The Defense Intelligence Agency awards a $6.6 billion dollar IT services contract after more than six months of delay. Eleven companies get a spot on the DIA “Solutions for the Information Technology Enterprise”, or SITE contract. Those firms will compete to provide services in more than 50 categories for the intelligence community. The contract had been delayed, because of protests.
  • The Veterans Affairs Department will begin accepting bids on Friday to build an online system to process claims for Agent Orange-related diseases. Expecting to receive 200,000 claims, the department is fast-tracking the procurement, according to NextGov. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in March decided to expedite medical claims of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee added $13 billion to a 2010 supplemental appropriations bill to cover Agent Orange claims.
  • The nation’s latest line of defense against terrorist attacks: Meter maids! Parking attendants, too. A new federal program will train thousands of parking industry employees across the country to watch for and report anything suspicious. Abandoned cars, people hanging around garages, people taking pictures and asking unusual questions…even strange odors. Bill Arrington of the Transportation Security Administration told parking industry professionals at a convention in Las Vegas that they are saying to please get involved. The program is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and administered by TSA.
  • The Department of State has entered into a partnership with Partners for a New Beginning. PNB is made up of Americans from a variety of sectors to serve as diplomats, in a way, with the private sector. They’ll focus on four areas: Economic opportunity; Science and technology; Education; and Exchange, which is, according to the website, “enhancing human connectedness.” Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will serve as the Chair of PNB. The 15 person group will be independent, and self-administered, operating in close coordination and partnership with the State Department.
  • Federal agencies may need to change the way they do presidential transitions. The Senate Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has approved a bill designed to streamline the transition process. Among other things, the measure would direct the government to set up a council of agency transition directors. It would also require GSA to provide eligible candidates with fully equipped office space and communication services.
  • The Commerce Department launches a new Web site, redesigned with open government and social media tools. The site is based on the open source software platform Drupal. It features blogging and comment forms, and it looks similar to WhiteHouse.gov, with shades of blue and gray.

  • More news links

    White House Reprimands Deputy CTO (InformationWeek)

    Mikulski wants FBI to get a move on (to Maryland) (BaltimoreSun blog)

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    The Navy is hiring for information technology (Newport News Daily Press)

    IG: Poor controls over access to IRS portal put taxpayer data at risk (NextGov)

    Forum strives for better pilots, controllers

    Govt wants cell phone limits on railroad operators

    Air Force: Tests didn’t include troubled GPS unit

    NASA wants mission to bring Martian rocks to Earth

    The 9-year-old Microsoft genius (CNN)

    THIS AFTERNOON ON FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

    Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

    ** She was the GSA chief financial officer. Now she heads up GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy. And in her first interview, Kathleen Turco will tell us what OGP means for feds.

    ** And cyber-security and embedded systems. Many people are focused on cyber-attacks. We’ll tell you about what embedded systems are — and how you can protect your agency.

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