Monday Morning Federal Newscast – July 26th

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.

  • Multiple NIH facilities in the D.C. area are closed today due to power outages from Sunday’s storms. These include 6100 and 6006 Executive Boulevard, Rockledge 2, 6610 Rockledge Dr., Democracy 1 and 2, GDC Warehouse, 6700B Rockledge, 5635 Fishers Lane, and 9800 Medical Center Drive.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee has completed work on three more fiscal 2011 spending bills. These include $35 billion dollars for Energy and Water appropriations, $68 billion dollars for Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and $60 billion for Commerce, Justice and Science. The committee rejected a bid by Senator Patty Murray to keep alive funding for the Yucca Mountain, Nevada nuclear waste dump, according to Congress Daily. Committee Republicans opposed all three measures, arguing for a lower cap on 2011 discretionary spending. So far, the committee has approved six of 12 spending bills.
  • A final telework bill is nearing completion for the president’s signature. A House staff member tells GovExec, the Senate and House versions of telework legislation are similar, and that sponsors are meeting to reconcile the two into a final version. That’s according to MaKeda Scott-Mingo, an aid to Maryland Representative John Sarbanes, who sponsored the House version. If signed into law, the bills would increase the opportunities for federal workers to perform their duties outside of agency offices.
  • Defense Department workers put national security at risk by allegedly downloading and purchasing child pornography on government and private computers. The Pentagon has released investigative reports spanning almost a decade. They implicate dozen of military officials and contractors working with agencies handling some of the nation’s most closely guarded security, including the National Security Agency. Several suspects were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of up to about five years and ordered to pay hefty fines. Others were never prosecuted. The Boston Globe first reported the story after obtaining the documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Federal watchdogs are asking Congress to write new rules for how your agency uses social media. The Government Accountability Office says that concerns over security and privacy led to its request. Twenty-two of the 24 biggest federal agencies have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites.
  • A federal union and members of Congress increase the pressure for collective bargaining rights at the Transportation Security Administration. GovExec reports House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and Democratic Representative Nita Lowey have drafted a letter to the new TSA head. They’re asking John Pistole to consider comprehensive workplace rights, including collective bargaining. The National Treasury Employees Union is calling on other members of Congress to sign the letter. Pistole didn’t state a position on collective bargaining during his confirmation hearings.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs will let its hospital and clinic patients use medical marijuana. The new policy expected later this week will allow clinicians to prescribe opioids for pain management, even if patients test positive for marijuana. Now, the change applies only in 14 states where medical marijuana is legal, and it will not give VA doctors authority to prescribe the drug. Patients can only use it if an outside doctor or clinician has prescribed it. Veterans groups have pressured VA for years to change its policy.
  • A federal judge has delayed sentencing for the former special counsel Scott Bloch. The Legal Times reports the judge has asked prosecutors and defense attorney’s for more information on guidelines for the sentence. Bloch, who worked under the former President George W. Bush, pleaded guilty in April to withholding information from Congress. He could face probation, a fine and community service. He had been scheduled to be sentenced on Friday. The new sentencing date is September 8.
  • Space weather, and NASA’s ability to predict it, are part of a three year authorization bill approved by the House Science and Technology Committee. NASA scientists are worried about solar storms. They predict an increase in solar activity over the next several years. Solar storms emit electromagnetic radiation that can harm communications systems on earth. The bill would require NASA to issue warnings about solar storms. But The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy would be charged with figuring out the overall federal plan for managing space weather, Next Gov reports.
  • We told you the smart meters were coming. They are the very first step of the smart grid initiative put in place by the Obama administration. But do consumers even like them? The idea is to eliminate the meter reader coming to your home to gauge your power usage, while giving you a more detailed account of when you use the most power, and how expensive it is. It will also help utilities quickly identify power outages. So far, about eight million homes have them. The White House says 40-million will have them by 2015. USAToday reports that some consumers – particularly in California – have seen their bills increase with the new meters. The Senate there investigated and found that the meter readings are actually more accurate.

More news links

Schools risk theft of SS numbers of children (WashingtonTimes)


Up to $5.23 billion could be spent on spy agency growth (The Annapolis Capital)

Mass power outages hit DC metro area after storms


Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

** The TSP is about to have a whole bunch of new members. Next week starts automatic enrollment for the Thrift Savings Plan. What does it mean for YOU? We’ll find out.

**And the Web site is widely seen as one of the most innovative government sites out there. We’ll talk to the brains behind it — Evan Burfield of Synteractive.

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