Wednesday Morning Federal Newscast – August 4th

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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • If you’re a political appointee, don’t expect a bonus anytime soon. The president has suspended all cash awards and bonuses for appointees thru the end if fiscal 2011. The Presidental memo also covers cash awards and quality step increases. President Obama says the freeze is part of an effort to cut costs.
  • Law enforcement authorities have referred more than 350 instances of stimulus spending, and indictments could occur this year. That’s according to Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board. He was testifying before the Senate subcommittee on federal financial management. Devaney said another 100 cases were looked at, but will not be prosecuted, according to Federal Times. Danny Werfel, the federal controller in the Office of Management and Budget, said the error rate in stimulus spending has been lower than expected.
  • Two Republican Senators — Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn and Arizona’s John McCain — released a report highlighting what they said are 100 money-wasting stimulus projects. The Wall Street Journal reports the two said these projects, and others like them, are giving taxpayers the blues. The Coburn-McCain report cited money spend on little-used public infrastructure or dubious scientific activities, such as a study of exotic ants in the Southwest Indian Ocean Islands. The White House responded with a list of errors in the reports, including some projects that were canceled or not funded with stimulus dollars.
  • A new idea in Congress would leave your mailbox empty for another 12 days of the year. Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz has proposed giving the Postal Service 12 postal holidays as a way to save money. His bill would let USPS choose those days, as long as they don’t fall on Sundays and public holidays. A spokesperson for USPS tells GovExec the idea to provide postal holidays wouldn’t save enough money.
  • Unisys is losing the battle to hold onto its lucrative TSA IT infrastructure contract. The company has filed three protests since the contract’s recompete process began in 2008. The first was filed when it didn’t make the list of final bidders, at which time GAO sided with the company. GAO also sided with the company when it protested again after CSC was awarded the contract last year, recommending that TSA repeat the recompete process. Unisys protested for a third time after CSC was re-awarded the contract in May. This time, GAO dismissed the company’s claims that TSA’s decision was “unreasonable”. Washington Technology reports that Unisys has earned around $2 billion in revenue from the TSA contract since 2002.
  • A bill that would send 1,200 new border agents to the Mexican border has stalled in the Senate. Congress Daily reports the holdup is a dispute between Republicans and Democrats. The Republicans say the bill’s cost should be offset with stimulus money. Democrats disagree. This is the same bill that passed in the House last week. On top of new agents to patrol the Mexican border, it would pay for 500 more officers for Customs and Border Protection.
  • Dell Services’ created a new management position within its federal government division: Chief Operations Leader. The position will be filled by Richard Pineda, general manager of the the company’s Defense Division effective immediately. Washington Technology reports Pineda will be responsible for the company’s business operations and service delivery to federal customers.
  • The Army is making changes at Arlington National Cemetery. An initial review in June by the Army Inspector General found that the cemetery wasted millions of dollars in contracts to digitize burial records without results, and had hundreds of unmarked or mislabeled graves. A new report from the Army secretary finds a general breakdown in sound business practices that included poor financial oversight and violations of contracting regulations. The report outlines proposed changes to ensure the cemetery doesn’t find itself in this situation again, the Washington Post reports. Cemetery superintendent John Metzler and his deputy Thurman Higginbotham were forced to retire over the scandal, which has now thrown the identity of over 6,000 graves into question.
  • The Pentagon is sending six helicopters from Afghanistan to help move relief supplies and refugees in flooded areas of Pakistan. Four CH-47 Chinooks can each carry dozens of people on stretchers, or haul large loads of equipment and supplies. Two smaller UH-60 Black Hawks will also be provided. The helicopters were supposed to arrive Tuesday but were delayed by bad weather. The Pentagon says they’ll fly when the weather clears. The helicopters will be flown by U.S. crews at the discretion of the Pakistani military. Pakistan is skittish about U.S. military presence, but has accepted humanitarian help in the past.
  • The Rolling Stone reporter whose article ended Army General Stanley McChrystal’s military career has been denied the chance to embed with troops in Afghanistan. The Pentagon says reporter Michael Hastings wanted to accompany American forces in September. But the Defense Department has turned down the request, as it ramps up an internal investigation into some of the most salacious material Hastings used in his article. Hastings quoted McChrystal and his aides criticizing and mocking the Obama administration. McChrystal, who led forces in Afghanistan, was recalled to Washington and fired.
  • A Government Accountability Office investigation has dinged for-profit colleges, charging them with deceptive marketing practices. The schools involved receive a growing share of federal college loan dollars, the Wall Street Journal reports. GAO investigators, posing as would-be applicants, said some schools encouraged falsifying applications to quality for federal student aid. Others exaggerated promises of salaries in certain professions. GAO looked at 15 schools altogether. A Senate hearing is scheduled for today.
  • Where did it go? The oil, that is? The government will announce today, 75 percent of the Deepwater Horizon oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico has been dispersed, evaporated, or captured. And the rest doesn’t seem to pose a big risk, the New York Times reports. Remaining oil is mostly light sheen at the ocean surface or in a dispersed form below the surface, and federal scientists believe that it is quickly breaking down. Jane Lubchenco, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said there is no evidence of significant concentrations of oil unaccounted for. NOAA’s report comes as BP is close to permanently plugging the well.

More news links

AP Exclusive: USDA racial flap reconstructed

Groups seek ban on lead ammunition, fishing tackle

Advertisement

Naval Academy gets new superintendent

NASA Delays Deciding Where Retired Space Shuttles Will Be Displayed (SPACE.com)

THIS AFTERNOON ON FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

**Do GSA schedule contract prices represent the best prices? Or just a starting point for negotiations? Insights from Harvard Prof. Steve Kelman.

**And meaningful use incentives for electronic health records — they’re seen as a big step toward the broader use of health IT. We’ll find out what they are and why they matter.

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