Wednesday Morning Federal Newscast – July 21st

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.

  • Virginia Congressman Jim Moran will oppose a pay freeze for federal workers. But he doesn’t think pay parity, in which civilian workers get the same size raise as military members, will occur this year. Some members of Congress even opposed the 1.9 percent raise federal employees are to receive in 2011, Moran said. He was speaking to EPA employees during a visit to the agency. According to GovExec, Moran is concerned about the government’s ability to attract the best talent if it freezes pay.
  • A group representing independent pharmacies is urging OPM to crack down on prescription drug costs for feds. The National Community Pharmacists Association has sent OPM a letter calling for more oversight of pharmacy benefit managers. Those are people who administer drug benefit programs The group says it supports a pending House bill that place limits on managers who want to participate in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. GovExec reports that OPM is working on a response to the group’s recommendations.
  • James Clapper Jr., President Obama’s choice to become National Intelligence Director had some choice words for the Washington Post. The newspaper this week has been running a widely talked-about series of articles on the extent and cost of the nation’s intelligence and anti-terror activities. Clapper, during his Senate confirmation hearing, said the articles contained breathlessness and shrillness that he doesn’t subscribe to. But he acknowledged that the issue of contractors versus federal employees needs more thought, Federal Times reports.
  • The White House has given orders to halt big financial upgrades, but the Department of Homeland Security isn’t stopping its own $450 million dollar project. A spokesman for DHS tells NextGov that his department will continue work to integrate various financial systems. In June, the White House directed federal agencies to stop new task orders and procurements for upgrades worth more than $20 million dollars. Homeland Security’s Transformation and Systems Consolidation project has taken heat from federal auditors. They say the upgrade has experienced serious delays.
  • Is Health and Human Services giving out stimulus money too easily? That’s what some members of a House Ways and Means subcommittee suspect. At a hearing, they questioned HHS officials on why they relaxed standards for how doctors use electronic health records, in order to quality for federal grants to buy the records systems. NextGov reports, lawmakers are concerned that electronic health records won’t live up their potential. The stimulus bill included $36 billion dollars for such grants.
  • The Smithsonian’s vast collection of 137 million objects can come in handy at a time like this. Scientists are just beginning to determine the full impact of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but they need to know more about all the creatures that lived in the water before the oil gushed. That’s where the Smithsonian comes in. It holds the most complete set of invertebrate species that live in the Gulf. The collection will serve as the baseline for measuring the oil’s impact on the ecosystem – from the commercial shrimp to microorganisms.
  • The adminstration isn’t worried if Russia cheats on a new nuclear arms treaty. That’s because we have more nukes than they do, a Pentagon expert told the Senate Armed Services Committee. That caused Senator John McCain of Arizona to ask James Miller, why even negotiate a treaty in the first place. Miller told the Associated Press separately, that the U.S. nuclear goal is parity with Russia, not superiority.

More news links

President Obama Expands Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target for Federal Operations (press release)


USDA reconsiders employee ouster over race remarks

GAO report: Mexico drug aid needs better oversight

Heroic mailman saves 3 lives while on the job

Air Force Tees Up Golf Course Software (NextGov)