Wednesday Morning Federal Newscast – July 7th

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The Labor Department accuses the Postal Service of violating electrical work-safety rules. Labor has filed a complain with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Among other things, the complaint says that postal leaders failed to protect workers from possible electrocution, even though they knew about the problems. At issue is equipment at 350 mail and distribution centers throughout the country. This is the first time OSHA has requested enterprise-wide action.
  • Homeland Security is providing a handbook that might help your agency with privacy. The department has released a guide that details how it works to safeguard sensitive information about citizens. Among the steps is mandatory training for all employees and contractors. The guidebook also explains Homeland Security’s response to complaints about privacy breaches, including a dedicated complaint tracking system.
  • Workers at the Transportation Security Administration can no longer access certain Web sites. TSA has blocked access to what it calls inappropriate pages. That includes chat, gaming and controversial opinion. Also on the ban list are sites associated with criminal activity and extreme violence. But TSA says it will not block access to critical comments on the agency itself.
  • President Obama will use the congressional recess to appoint a new head for Medicare and Medicaid. The White House is expected to announce today that Dr. Donald Berwick will fill that post. Berwick was nominated in April, but Republicans have vowed to oppose his confirmation, citing comments he has made on rationing medical care and other points of contention. Appointing Berwick during the recess will allow him to avoid confirmation hearings in the Senate. Medicare and Medicaid Services has been without a permanent leader since 2006. The White House says filling that post is crucial, because of the new healthcare reform law.
  • Ronald Reagan National Airport, the closest airport to Washington, D.C., could get a lot busier and noisier. A group of lawmakers are making a fresh try at expanding the number of long-distance flights to and from National, the Washington Post reports. Lead by Senate Commerce committee chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the lawmakers are reviving the flight plans as part of negotiations over a funding bill for the FAA. National Airport has long had distance restrictions as a way of keeping jet noise in check.
  • How much is the Gulf of Mexico oil still costing the government? The Office of Management and Budget wants to know. A new memo from director Peter Orszag — yes, he’s still on the job and still giving homework — directs agencies to document all costs and spending they’ve taken on, related to the spill. The memo asks for all costs regardless of whether agency officials think they might be reimbursable from the $20 billion fund established under an agreement with the White House and oil giant BP.
  • It’s back to court for the Obama administration, as it tries to re-instate a ban on drilling in ocean water deeper than 500 feet, the Wall Street Journal reports. Administration lawyers were in the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit yesterday seeking to convince the judge to reverse his blocking of the ban. They said the six-month moratorium is in the best long term interest of the nation, in light of damage from the ongoing spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The court had found that the Interior Department trivialized the economic costs of the moratorium. Separately, tar balls from the spill have reached both the Texas coastline and Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans.
  • Government managers aren’t the only ones who have to track their energy use. Now the General Services Administration has a plan for contractors to also track their greenhouse gas emissions. That is, if they want to keep getting government contracts.Federal Times reports, the plan won’t take place before fiscal 2011 or 2012. Before asking for emissions reports, though, the GSA is recommending to the White House that agencies first ask contractors whether they are even able to measure their carbon footprints.
  • The Obama administration is thinking small, very small. It’s asking for feedback on a new strategy for nanotechnology. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a request for information from both industry and academia on specific approaches to research, funding and policy that agencies can use to help nanotechnology transform the economy. A new strategic plan will be published in December. Nanotechnology refers to the construction of microscopic structures out of carbon atoms. The Bush administration established the National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2001. NextGov reports, OSTP will host an online dialogue about nanotechnology later this month.
  • The Army confirmed it will proceed with criminal charges against a private accused of sending classified military documents to the Wiki-leaks whistleblower web site. Private first class Bradley Manning is alleged to have used his personal computer to transfer a video showing an Iraq helicopter gunbattle in which civilians were killed. He also is accused of sending secret cables related to the incident. The specific charge: Delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source. The episode caught in the video took place in July 2007. This year, Wikileaks combined the documents into a package called Collateral Murder. It isn’t clear what punishment Manning will face if he’s convicted.
  • Is 424 pages of analysis and recommendations enough to really, really make sure federal agencies are transparent when it comes to stimulus spending? That’s the weight of guidance coming from the Government Accountability Office. GAO wants to help the Office of Management and Budget tweak, OMB’s portal to all spending under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. NextGov reports, GAO auditors think should be easier to use, and not just for stimulus spending, but for all federal spending. OMB said it agreed with the GAO findings.
  • Sam’s Club, the warehouse retailer known for bulk bundling, is ready to offer Small Business Administration loans to its members. Sam’s is testing an online program to loan up to $25,000 to qualifying club members, focusing on minority-, women-, and veteran-owned small businesses, reports the St. Louis Business Journal. They’re working with Superior Financial Group, which is a SBA lender. Officials with Sam’s Club say that they conducted a study in November of 2009. That study found nearly 15 percent of its business members reported being denied a loan to run their operation. So they decided to launch a pilot program of their own to, in their words, fuel small business growth and create jobs.
  • General Dynamics has landed a contract with the Navy that could be worth up to $881 million. The Washington Business Journal reports the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics will receive nearly $172 million to provide design and development services for the new Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. The contract has options through 2014.
  • Lockheed Martin might be feeling the economic pinch. The Washington Business Journal reports the defense contractor is offering buyouts to top executives to cut costs. The early retirement offers to top executives at the director and vice president levels are intended to reduce overhead and reduce layers of management. Lockheed is also offering financial incentives for those employees to leave by February first. No word on exactly what those incentives are, or how many executives qualify.
  • NASA’s top space contractor plans to lay off more than 1,000 people working on the shuttle program. That program will end by next year. United Space Alliance says the layoffs will affect workers in Florida, Texas and Alabama. The contractor will help the workers find new jobs. They’ll provide help with resumes and coaching for job interviews. The Alliance is a consortium of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

More news links

EPA: Clean-air rule would overturn Bush-era plan

NY Rep. Rangel: Power Loss Portrait in Congress


Feds vs. State again in suit against Arizona law

‘It’s just too hot': East Coast scorched by heat

OECD: Rich country unemployment may have peaked

The Pentagon is launching projects BaTMAN and RoBIN to create super-soldiers (IO9)


Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

** We talk about telework, but do you have employees who work exclusively at home? How do you deal with privacy and security? The Industry Advisory Council has some answers. We’ll find out what At-Home agents are and what they might mean for you.

** And do you have a social media policy? We’ll talk about Eight Essential Elements for Government Social Media Policy

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