Thursday morning federal headlines – Feb. 23, 2012

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive host Tom Temin 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.

  • NASA is upgrading its technology infrasctructure, with an eye on the future. NASA chief information officer Linda Cureton says she is looking ahead five years. The backbone of this effort are three technology infrastructure contracts NASA awarded last year worth more than a combined $4 billion. They were made under its IT Infrastructure Integration Program or I3P. NASA says it is consolidating five separate contracts under I3P, and adding more and newer technology capabilities. Cureton says NASA is already seeing results. Contract employees are getting daily back up services and better security tools, including data-at-rest. NASA is also starting to analyze how voice in the cloud would work in the future. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Army is using a squad of retirees to bolster its acquisition workforce. Kim Denver is the deputy assistant Army secretary for procurement. He says annuitants are helping both to draft policies and to conduct hands-on acquisitions. He says their main value is knowledge gained through experience. The Army is trying to hire 9,000 contracting specialists over the next 10 years. In the meantime, Denver says it’s also offering bonuses to officers who change career paths. Congress recently extended a law that lets federal retirees come back to work temporarily without losing benefits. (Federal News Radio)
  • An Army private accused of giving away classified information will be arraigned today at Fort Meade, Md. Bradley Manning faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy. That could carry a life sentence. Manning allegedly delivered a cache of hundreds of thousands of Army and State Department secret field reports and videos to the WikiLeaks website. His defense lawyers will argue, Manning was a troubled soldier who should not have had access to classified material. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is working on a buyout plan for up to 800 people. The lab is facing budget cuts — $300 million less this year than what it got in 2011. In addition, fewer people are leaving the workforce. More than 7,000 permanent employees work there. The lab has submitted its buyout plan for approval by the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is its parent agency. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Obama is attending a groundbreaking for new museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The National Museum of African American History will be topped by a tapering, bronze-plated crown. It will be the Smithsonian Institution’s 19th museum. When it opens in 2015, the museum will contain artifacts such as a Jim Crow-era segregated rail car and the casket of Emmet Till. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal law enforcement is looking for someone who is mailing threats to congressional offices. One official tells the Associated Press 10 members of Congress and some media have received the letters. Messages inside have come with a suspicious white powder and say there’s a 10 percent chance you have just been exposed to a lethal pathogen. But investigators say the powder, so far, is harmless. The sender is apparently upset with corporate America and is calling for a new constitutional convention. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Commerce Department is sponsoring an app contest. It wants developers to use Commerce and other federal data to build tools to help U.S. businesses become more competitive. The app contest follows launch of BusinessUSA.gov, a portal to all federal services available to businesses. The challenge carries three prizes totaling $10,000. Judges include Commerce Secretary John Bryson and Federal CIO Steven Van Roekel. Submissions are due by April 30. (Commerce)
  • Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Dutch Security and Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten signed a Better of Intent to cooperate in cybersecurity. Last year, Napolitano visited The Netherlands to discuss cybersecurity and protecting the global supply chain. The Letter of Intent says the two nations will collaborate in incident response and management exercises. (DHS)
  • A revived Navy Airship program has fallen victim to budget-cutting pressure. The military branch has mothballed its MZ3A blimp based in New Jersey. Military Times reports the program doesn’t have enough customers. The Naval Research Lab was the last — flying it to test intelligence and surveillance sensors. But that’s over, and no one else needs to use the blimp. So the Navy is deflating it and putting it in storage to save on maintenance costs. The move could mean layoffs for the program’s civilian contract crew. (Military Times)
  • The cash-strapped Postal Service might want to ask automakers for money-saving ideas. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) tells Federal News Radio the agency can learn a thing or two from how the bailed-out U.S. auto industry started recovering from big losses in the recession. One idea Carper is promoting would have unions take over managing postal workers’ health insurance. Carper also says USPS needs to have real conversations about restructuring local post offices, maybe putting some in grocery stores. The Postal Service is on track to lose $14 billion by October. (Federal News Radio)
  • An immigration program that allows some local police to act as immigration agents – is coming to an end. The Obama administration is asking the Homeland Security Department to scrap the program. It allowed ICE to sign contracts with local police, giving them the power to check the immigration status of suspects and place immigration holds on them. The program reached its peak under the last Bush administration, when 60 local agencies had signed contracts with ICE. That slowed under President Obama. No new contracts have been signed since 2010. USA Today reports, DHS expects to save $17 million by cancelling some contracts now and allowing the rest to expire. The last contract in the program runs out in November. (USA Today)