Monday Morning Federal Newscast – September 13th

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.

  • A million taxpayers who took advantage of that first-time homebuyer credit will be required to pay that money back. Now, the IRS has to figure out a strategy to recoup the funds. The Wall Street Journal reports the law requires some taxpayers to repay the money, and the IRS has taken some steps to enforce the repayment requirements. But the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration says the IRS has also made some mistakes. For example, the IRS recorded the wrong home purchase date for about 73,000 people, which would have led to many incorrectly being asked to pay back the money.
  • Those falling per diem rates you’ve heard about are not necessarily final. GSA has given agencies until December 31st to appeal the changes. Last month, GSA announced the 2011 rates would fall in more than 300 areas that feds frequent. But a GSA official cited in Federal Times says the agency will raise some rates if travel managers make a convincing case.
  • GSA is giving your agency more time to submit its Networx transition plan and receive reimbursement for all costs. GSA has confirmed that 41 agencies have requested and received a 12-month extension to August 31, 2011. The move is a turn-around for GSA, which has repeatedly said that there would not be another extension. The first deadline was moved last November. A formal announcement on the latest extension is expected soon.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is getting ready to test some new iris scan technology. The system stores digital images of your eyes in a database. It is considered a quicker alternative to fingerprints. USA Today reports DHS will run a two-week test in October at a border patrol station in McAllen, Texas. This new generation of scanners can capture images from six feet away, instead of a few inches. While that’s captured the interest of security personnel, civil liberties groups are concerned about the cameras being used covertly.
  • NATO gives Afghan companies preference in billions of dollars worth of military contracts. The guidance from General David Petraeus says contracts should go to Afghans first. If that’s not possible, the firm that IS chosen should be encouraged to hire Afghan workers and subcontractors. There’s also a new “transparency clause” for lead contractors. Petraeus says the guidelines are in response to concerns the military’s contracting procedures could be running counter to efforts on the battlefield.
  • General Dynamics has won a contract that could be worth up to $300 million to help the Army sniff out bioterrorism weapons. The Armament and Technical Products unit landed the deal for the Joint Biological Point Detection System. The Washington Business Journal reports the system is a self-contained instrument suite that detects and identifies biological warfare agents. It comes in several sizes and can be configured to meet the Army’s and Navy’s requirements. Under the new contract, production begins in April of 2011.
  • As fragments of broken pipe make their way back to Washington, federal investigators of the California gasoline explosion are focusing on an odd section of pipe. The National Transportation Safety Board is in charge of the investigation, and is taking pipe fragments to its metallury lab. The Wall Street Journal reports the pipe in question contains many welds and a seam running lengthwise that appears to have burst open. At the time of Thursday’s explosion, Pacific Gas and Electric was halfway through an inspection of all of its pipelines. The inspections were ordered by the by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in 2004.
  • The Labor Department is giving Texas more than $5 million to help workers losing their jobs as NASA ends the space shuttle program. The grant will help about 600 contract workers, most from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. GovExec reports those employees will receive employment services, including job training and career counseling. The shuttle program is scheduled to end in November. The administration has already pledged more than $50 million to help workers in Florida.
  • Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have joined forces to prevent suicides. The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is a coalition of private and public sector groups, all dedicated to reducing suicides. Army Secretary John McHugh is a co-chair of the alliance. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is a board member. More than a thousand members of the military have taken their own lives since 2005, and the rate of suicide is rising. Gates called the phenomenon a scourge.
  • The Marine Corps plan to build a base in Okinawa is running into opposition from nearby residents. The Wall Street Journal reports an outspoken critic of the base has won election as mayor of Nago, the town where the base is located. Critics also gained a majority of the seats on the city council. Locals there have vowed to defy Japan’s prime minister and cabinet, who have backed the plan. The new mayor defeated a incumbent who had accepted the new base.

More news links

Amtrak’s ouster of IG puts heat on rail service (WashingtonTimes)


Former Department of Homeland Security official charged with causing his wife to collect salary of nearly $600,000 even though she was not working (DOJ press release)

Homeland chief says US will always face threats

In first for Afghan war, award goes to living vet

Report: Saudi diplomats seeks asylum in US

Iranian diplomat says he’ll seek asylum in Finland

Military eyes glowing secrets of fireflies, others


Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

** You’ve heard of auctions — think “eBay.” This afternoon, we’ll tell you about reverse auctions and how one agency is using them to create an open and transparent contracting process.

** And the TSP’s L-fund — you set it and forget it. As the first L-fund is riding into the sunset, L-2010, what happens now? We’ll find out from the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.

Join Chris from 3 to 7 pm on 1500 AM or on your computer.