Monday Morning Federal Newscast – August 16

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Government Executive that OMB isn’t planning any policies to prevent agencies from bringing work back in-house from contractors. The Defense Department has announced plans to phase out its in-sourcing push, because it didn’t save the money they had expected it would.

  • Afghanistan is giving private security contractors four months to disband. About 26,000 contractors work for the US in Afghanistan. Afghan president Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called for banning private security companies, saying they undermine government security forces. The companies guard supply convoys and diplomats, among other things. A spokesman for Karzai says the government will issue a formal decree later today.
  • A new OPM study finds that federal employees earn 22 percent less than their private sector counterparts doing similar jobs. Now, the study examined straight salary and didn’t factor in benefits. OPM says there is no information to compare federal and non-federal benefits. The findings are based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. OPM Director John Berry ordered the study in June, following media reports that feds earn much more money than people in the private sector.
  • The economic impact of the decisions made by the Base Realignment and Closing commission are starting to show. For example, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio, had an economic impact of more than $5 billion dollars in the past year. Base officials say that’s an increase of more than $700 million. The Dayton Business Journal reports the base is responsible for more than 27,000 jobs, plus another 33,000 indirect jobs. Construction work, services and supplies were contracted out, much of it to local companies. Analysts had expected the economic impact to grow even more in coming years, but that is in doubt now because of the directive by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to cut contractor funding 10 percent for each of the next three years.
  • Contractors could get some help with cyber security from the National Security Agency. According to, such a proposal is circulating in DOD and in the Homeland Security Department. It would let the NSA monitor so-called meta data about traffic to selected domains operated by major defense contractors. The agency would notify the companies and the Pentagon if it found suspicious activity. But the NSA would not directly monitor private network content, the Atlantic reports, but would instead provide technical assistance.
  • Indian IT companies say new legislation unfairly targets them with new fees. The President on Friday signed a bill that increases by a factor of eight the fees some foreign companies operating in the U.S. must pay for workers using H-1B and L visas. The law is supposed to raise $200 million dollars per year for border security. But India-based technology companies are saying the law seems aimed specifically at them, according to the Wall Street Journal. Senator Charles Schumer of New York says the law is aimed companies abusing the visa system.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development has cut its new employee hiring time in half. It now takes an average of 76 days, lower than the 80-day goal laid out by the Office of Personnel Management. Federal Times reports the effort at HUD had the backing of Secretary Shaun Donovan. A SWAT team inside HUD found hiring bottlenecks and devised ways to straighten them out. In one example, a 13-step process for gaining approval to hire someone was reduced to just three. Also, candidate review teams are scheduled before resumes come in, not after, saving months in some cases.
  • Baltimore Gas and Electric can move forward with its smart grid plans. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that state energy regulators have signed off on the $835 million plan. However, the Maryland Public Service Commission will not allow BGE to pay for the project as it is built. BGE had said that it would not go forward without the ability to pay-as-they-go, through a surcharge on customers’ bills. But, if utility officials accept this latest decision, BGE can keep its $200 million stimulus grant for the project, and consumers will start to see the installation of smart meters on their homes.
  • The National Park Service is teaming with Temple University to recruit rangers specializing in law enforcement. The Washington Post reports hundreds of rangers, about half of the force, must retire in the next five years thanks to federal age rules. The work is demanding, blending policing, emergency medicine and search-and-rescue skills, all in outdoor settings. To overcome the retirements, the ProRanger partnership with Temple places students in paid 12-week summer internships at Park Service sites. Then it pays for 13 weeks at a law-enforcement academy after graduation. According to the Post, the Park Service chose Temple because of its highly ranked criminal justice program.
  • Even astronomers have a wish list. Every decade, space scientists prioritize their goals and the gadgets they need to reach them. USA Today reports that the latest National Research Council Report includes the astrophysics agenda from 2012 to 2022. The report calls for new hardware against the reality of federal agency budgets. Priorities include: The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telesecope, a $1.6 billion space telescope to be launched in 2020 that will provide clues to dark energy; The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a $465 million telescope for 2018, designed to monitor near Earth asteroids; New Worlds, a $4 million per year study to design telescopes that will see other habitable planets; The head of the National Academy of Sciences oversaw the report’s preparation.

  • More news links

    Countdown: Gates cuts Pentagon budget, Census surplus


    OPM trying to correct fed salary facts

    La. shrimpers worry about prices for new season

    China overtakes Japan in 2Q as No. 2 economy

    US Navy says 4 ships robbed off Iraqi coast