Thursday Afternoon Federal Newscast – May 13

The Afternoon Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Daily Debrief hosts Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris discuss throughout their show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • President Barack Obama says the U.S. is still on track to begin bringing troops home from Afghanistan in July of next year. Obama says there have been steady signs of progress since he increased the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan late last year. But he said progress takes time and cautioned that the U.S. must commit to a long-term partnership with Afghanistan.
  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai is wrapping up a four-day visit to Washington with a televised give-and-take with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Obama administration has done its best to repair strained relations with the Afghan leader, its partner in the war against militants in Afghanistan. Karzai, meanwhile, will continue to seek to convince Americans that his regime is worth fighting and dying for, with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and private talks with top lawmakers.
  • The FBI says agents have executed search warrants at several locations in the Northeast in connection with the failed Times Square car bomb. An FBI spokeswoman says the searches were the product of evidence gathered in the investigation and that there is “no known immediate threat to the public or any active plot against the United States.” FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz would not confirm any addresses, but police have cordoned off a small house in Watertown, a suburb about 10 miles west of Boston.
  • The first firm evidence of what likely caused the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil blowout — a devastating sequence of equipment failures — drives home a central unsettling point about America’s oil industry: key safety features at tens of thousands of U.S. offshore rigs are barely regulated. Wednesday’s hearings by congressional and administration panels laid out a checklist of unseen breakdowns on largely unregulated aspects of well safety that appear to have contributed to the April 20 blowout: a leaky cement job, a loose hydraulic fitting, a dead battery. It remains unclear what, if anything, Congress or the Obama administration may do to address these regulatory deficiencies. So far, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has proposed splitting his department’s Minerals Management Service in two to make safety enforcement independent of the agency’s other main function — collecting billions in royalties from the drilling industry.
  • The first man to walk on the moon said Wednesday that President Barack Obama’s plans to revamp the human space program would cede America’s longtime leadership in space to other nations. Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan, the last astronaut on the moon, told a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that the Obama plan was short on ambition, including the decision to alter the Bush administration’s goal of establishing a permanent presence on the moon. Cernan said in his written testimony that he, Armstrong and Apollo 13 Commander James Lovell agreed that the administration’s budget for human space exploration “presents no challenges, has no focus, and in fact is a blueprint for a mission to ‘nowhere.'” Lovell, while not present at the hearing, issued a statement opposing Obama’s NASA budget.


Coming up on the Federal Drive

** When it comes to acquisition, sometimes all you hear are the horror stories. We’ll talk to a Homeland Security buyer who got an award for doing things the right way.


** Speaking of awards, we’ll also talk with someone from CDC who was instrumental in getting flu vaccine distributed on a national scale.