Thursday Morning Federal Newscast – January 6th

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.

  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates will outline deep cuts in weapons systems. Details are still secret. But the Wall Street Journal reports sources name several weapons systems on the chopping block. Gates will propose cancelling the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle being developed by General Dynamics. The Pentagon will cut back orders for the F-35 Joint Strike Force, built by Lockheed Martin. Also targeted is an air-to-air missile from Raytheon. The Journal cites congressional aides, who say Gates will brief defense appropriations and oversight committees this morning.
  • After just one day in business, the Senate has recessed until late this month. The full chamber will not return to normal business until January 25th – when the President gives his State of the Union Address. The Hill reports the move buys time for a compromise on a Democratic proposal to change Senate rules by limiting filibusters.
  • Bring on the moving trucks! The Defense Information Systems Agency will start the transfer to its new Fort Meade headquarters this weekend. DISA says 40 employees will will make up the first wave. This is all part of BRAC — the Base Realignment and Closure process. The Maryland Gazette reports more than 4,000 DISA workers are expected to move by mid-summer.
  • The Labor Department is looking to change a rule about pay discrimination. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs enforces affirmative action and equal employment opportunity requirements among vendors who do business with the federal government. The Washington Business Journal reports the OFCCP wants to rescind two processes that are used to identify cases of pay discrimination. The proposed rule would negate two documents. One instructs compliance officers on how to group employees for pay comparisons. The other provides voluntary guidelines for contractors but is rarely used because it is so complicated. The rule was published in the Federal Register on January third.
  • The IRS is being too rough on taxpayers with financial problems. And it struggles to implement the new health care reform law. Those findings lede the annual report to Congress from the National Taxpayer Advocate. That report was released yesterday. Advocate Nina E. Olson also says the need for tax reform is the number one priority in tax administration. She says, reform should make the tax code simpler, more transparent, and easier and cheaper for taxpayers to navigate. Olson says hard-core enforcement, such as liens, inflicts unnecessary harm on financially strapped taxpayers.
  • Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker will quit his post as head of a panel advising the President on the economy. His departure as head of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board is among a series of personnel changes at the White House. Meanwhile, President Obama tomorrow will his choice to replace Larry Summers as his top economic adviser. Many experts see Treasury advisor Gene Sperling as the front runner.
  • Heads are rolling at the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. Arnold Fields, the director, has fired two deputies. Let go were John Brummet and Raymond DiNunzio. GovExec reports, Fields said he wants to take oversight of Afghanistan contracting in a new, increasingly aggressive direction. In September, four senators called for Fields himself to be fired. The retired Marine general also received a negative review from the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. Fields later brought in a new second in command, FBI veteran Herbert Richardson.
  • Google has landed a victory in the battle for cloud computing supremacy in the federal government. A federal claims court has ordered the Interior Department to stay a cloud computing award to Microsoft. The contract is for e-mail and collaboration services. The judge says Interior violated the Competition in Contracting Act and rules in the Federal Acquisition Regulations. And she’s remanded the procurement back to the department for additional investigation and explanation. Google filed suit in October, alleging Interior didn’t conduct a fair and open procurement.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology is changing the way it hires in order to fill critical positions more quickly. It’s a pilot program that makes several positions eligible for direct hiring. The pilot affects the NIST Alternative Personnel Management System and will run for one year.
  • A member of the Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco advisory board has resigned. Gregory N. Connolly had been charged by the tobacco industry with having conflicts of interest. The Harvard professor says he can be more effective from outside than from inside. The committee is expected to make a recommendation on whether to ban menthol cigarettes. Its recommendation is not binding on the FDA. The Wall Street Journal reports Connolly promised to present his own research on menthol at an advisory board meeting next week.
  • The FCC has rolled out a new challenge the agency says will promote a more open Internet. The agency calling on developers and researchers to create new apps. The apps are aimed at helping consumers measure and protect Internet openness. As example, the FCC says software tools could help detect whether a broadband provider is interfering with DNS responses, application packet headers, or content. Winners of the Open Internet Challenge get an expense-paid trip to Washington. They get to meet FCC chairman Julius Genachowski at a special reception.
  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has joined YouTube. Chairman Darryl Issa says his committee has added video from every hearing since 2009. And all future hearings will be aired on YouTube. He says it’s all about transparency.

More news links

IPv6 Guide Provides Path to Secure Deployment of Next-Generation Internet Protocol (NIST press release)

Report says Army cut corners on body armor tests


NASA signs decade-long, $2.5B outsourcing pact with HP (ComputerWorld)

Los Alamos lab director Anastasio to retire

SKorean police say Google collects personal info

NTSB urges inspections of emergency transmitters

White House loses nearly a quarter of its value (Yahoo! News)


Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

** The executive branch has worked to be open and transparent. Will there be more sunlight in the halls on Capitol Hill?

** And power — of course, all DOD weapons systems need power to run. And DOD has spent $2.1-billion on power sources. Is that money well used? GAO has it’s assessment and we’ll talk to them.

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