Monday Morning Federal Newscast – June 14th

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear bonuses handed out to federal employees in 2009. Through a freedom of information act request, Asbury Park Press says it acquired data from OPM that shows more than $400-million dollars in bonuses for about 65 percent of the federal workforce. Then, Asbury Park Press compares that with bonuses handed out at Goldman Sachs – which added up to more than $16 billion dollars. The Heritage Foundation concedes that federal employee bonuses are very small portions of their compensation. The American Federation of Government Employees says that there isn’t enough cash to go around to “alter the incentive structure in the pay system.” Often, bonuses in the federal government consist of incentives other than cash like extra days off.

  • Adult children of some feds may have to wait for health coverage in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program until next year. The Senate has voted down an amendment that would have filled in a theoretical gap in extended coverage for dependents from age 22 to 26. That extension is required under the new healthcare reform law beginning next year. Federal Daily reports that both chambers of Congress are working on other measures to prevent a gap in coverage.
  • A congressional panel has given the Defense Department a list of steps for saving nearly $1 trillion dollars over the next decade. The Sustainable Defense Task Force recommends, among other things, that DoD reduce its active-duty force by more than 200,000 troops. The panel also suggests the military reform its health system and reduce unneeded weapons systems. The task force says federal discretionary spending has nearly doubled since 2001, and more than one-third of that is because of defense-spending.
  • The Defense Department may reduce civilian employees and military member staffing, in order to meet a mandate for money savings. DoD comptroller Robert Hale telling Federal Times his department hopes to generate $68 billion dollars in savings over the next five years. On top of staff cuts, DoD will look to streamline business functions and reduce overhead. This mandate to save came from the top: Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
  • Veterans Affairs has a $12 billion dollar contract it needs filled. The VA’s five-year technology and telecommunications program will span a range of work from supporting facilities to cybersecurity. The Washington Post reports the draft solicitation, known as Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology, or T4, will select companies to be chosen for future awards. The government plans to award up to 15 prime contracts for the program. The T4 solicitation is set for release June 30th, and awards are planned for late September.
  • So, you’re a vendor, and you want to land a hot federal contract. Navigating those waters can be tricky. INPUT is launching a new service that claims to help contractors do their homework on major federal programs. It is called “Capture Intelligence” and promises balanced, non-public insight and actionable information into large-scale federal programs. It focuses on defense and civilian program opportunities valued at more than $100 million dollars. The service isn’t free, though. You have to subscribe. But for the cost of your subscription, INPUT promises access to its ability to track nearly $2 trillion dollars in federal opportunities.
  • It’s a first for the government’s bank bailout. The Troubled Asset Relief Program receiving more money in pay backs than it has in outstanding loans. The Treasury Department says that at the end of May, TARP recipients had repayed $194 billion dollars. That number surged last month when Treasury sold 1.5 billion shares of Citigroup. Treasury pegs the total cost for TARP near $105 billion dollars, after all paybacks and returns on investments are tallied.
  • Housing and Urban Development is getting help with its money management systems. ATS Corp, based in McLean, Virginia, has won a nearly-$14 million dollar HUD contract. The Washington Business Journal reports the contract runs for five years. ATS will provide application systems support for HUD’s systems for program accounting, lines-of-credit, and bond payments. ATS has worked with HUD before, providing mission-critical software development and maintenance for nearly 30 years.
  • The Agriculture Department has banned a long-time inspector of organic foods from China, the New York Times reports. The Organic Crop Improvement Association of Nebraska, known as O.C.I.A., allegedly used Chinese government employees to inspect farms and food processing facilities that are state controlled. USDA officials believe this is a conflict of interest, and will announce the ban today. The Times reports, some of the products inspected by O.C.I.A. were used to manufacture store brand products for Whole Foods Market, the nation’s largest organic retailer.
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced emergency funding for suppression of grasshopper outbreaks threatening up to four million acres of rangeland in western states. Nearly $11 million in funding will be available through USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Suppression Program. The funds pay for application of aerial and ground insecticide treatments. Vilsack stressed that the goal of the program is to suppress grasshopper and/or Mormon cricket populations during outbreak years, not to eradicate them. He notes grasshoppers are native species and an important part of the rangeland ecosystem.
  • The State Department is forensically examining computer hard drives used by an Army intelligence analyst in New York who may have leaked tens of thousands of classified diplomatic documents to a whistle-blower website. Operators of the site, wiki-leaks.org, have denied receiving the documents. Army specialist Bradley Manning communicated with a former hacker, who in turn notified authorities of the alleged leaks. Manning hasn’t been charged, but is being held in detention in Kuwait. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is checking the drives to see if the transmittal of the documents can be proven.
  • The Obama administration steps up the pace of involvement with BP this week. As the oil continues to flow unabated into the Gulf of Mexico, the president will propose that British Petroleum establish a fund for reimbursing victims. The fund would be administered independently of the company. Tuesday, the president will give a speech to the nation from the Oval office. And Wednesday he’ll meet at the White House with BP executives, including Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. BP over the weekend said it was collecting 15,000 barrels of oil a day thanks to the cap placed on the well. But 35,000 barrels may still be escaping every day.

  • More news links

    Bill to Apply FEHBP Age Extension This Year Sinks in Senate (FederalDaily)

    Paper checks being phased out for government beneficiaries (SILive)

    Capital area chief Lane leaves Postal Service after assault allegation (WashingtonPost)

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    Report: US finds mineral riches in Afghanistan

    Introduces bill to protect rights of military families to fly service flags (Jim Webb)

    FAA under pressure to open US skies to drones

    If You Happen to Find One of Our Undersea Robots, Please Call Us: Navy (DefenseTech)

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