Monday Morning Federal Newscast – September 27th

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.

  • The inspector general at the Postal Service says his cash-strapped agency has awarded hundreds of contracts to former workers without competition. The IG says 359 noncompetitive contracts were given out to employees who left the Postal Service between October of 2006 and September of 2009. The Washington Times reports former postal executives were hired as consultants making more than they made at the USPS for performing, essentially, the same job. The audit was orderd by Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
  • Cathy Kronopolus will replace Bart Bush as the General Services Administration’s commissioner of the National Capital Region Public Buildings Service. The Washington Business Journal reports the appointment is effective today. Kronopolus will be in charge of the largest GSA building portfolio in the country, managing 96-million square feet in more than 800 government-owned and leased buildings in the DC area. She will take over for Bart Bush, who is leaving the post to become the GSA’s assistant commissioner for real property asset management. That’s part of the Public Buildings Service.
  • Federal law enforcement and national security officials would have broad new authority to wiretap Internet communications under a bill being prepared by the Obama administration. The New York Times reports, the bill will be submitted to lawmakers next year. The administration will argue that law enforcement’s ability to track terrorist and criminal suspects is going dark because communications are shifting from telephones to the Internet. The eavesdropping authority would extend to services like BlackBerry and Skype, and include the ability to unscramble encrypted messages.
  • The FAA has given the green light for nationwide deployment of its satellite-based surveillance system. That means air traffic controllers can begin using the system to separate aircraft in each zone where it provides coverage. There’s a ways to go yet: The FAA predicts total U.S. coverage will be complete by the end of 2013. The system, known Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast, or ADS-B, has been successfully tested in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, Louisville and Philadelphia. So far, 300 of a planned 800 ADS-B ground systems have been installed.
  • The accuracy and usefulness of biometric identification systems has been called into question by the National Research Council. A report says such systems are inherently fallible. No biometric trait — whether fingerprint, voice or face recognition — is stable or distinctive across all groups of people. The Council is calling on more research to make biometric systems more reliable. A Hewlett Packard technologist who worked on the report said the promise of biometrics has outpaced its application for 50 years.
  • The Senate passes a bill to streamline presidential transfers of power. The Pre-Election Transition Act of 2010 would set aside money for the administration to plan and coordinate activities by federal departments and agencies. It would also require GSA to give each candidate a broad range of services, including fully-equipped office space and help with security clearances. The bill now moves to the House.
  • Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen will soon be stepping down from his post as point person in charge of the federal response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. USA Today reports Allen has taken the lead on overseeing the government’s response, which included more than 47,000 workers, seven thousand ships and millions of feet of boom. Allen says he was also frustrated in the early weeks of the response, and tells USA Today that federal officials struggled with bypassing state laws, and that communication between federal and state officials was often slowed by federal rules governing a spill response. Allen’s successor, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft, will be in the role a few more months before the position vanishes altogether.
  • The Justice Department has reached a settlement that it says would improve competition for high-skill jobs. The deal affects six tech firms: Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intiut and Pixar. It comes after each signed agreements that prevented them from attempting to directly recruit employees at the other companies. But the Justice Department filed suit, alleging the practice hurts competition. The settlement would resolve the suit. But it still needs to be approved by a federal court.
  • A new Space Based Surveillance satellite is orbiting Earth after a successful launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. A spokeswoman for Boeing says it was a picture-perfect launch for the Minotaur 4 rocket carrying the satellite. The satellite is designed to detect and monitor debris and space objects that could be a threat to national security and communications.
  • Forget chauffered Suburbans, Metro or just hoofing it. Federal managers could soon be tootling around down on a fleet of shared bicycles. OPM director John Berry, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and GSA Administrator Martha Johnson are getting together soon (event delayed due to weather) to announce a federal partnership with D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare Program. The three agencies will offer employees corporate membership in the program. Organizers of Bikeshare hope to eventually offer 24-hour access to 1,000 bikes in D.C. and Arlington.
  • The federal government is swinging into action to take on the stink bug. The invasive and crop-destroying insect is ravaging mid-atlantic orchards and soybean farms. The New York Times reports, the Agriculture Department will spend $800,000 on stink bug research this year, but more is needed. The Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, W.Va. is one of three USDA facilities working on the problem.

More news links

Akaka opposes federal hiring freeze proposal (press release)


Pentagon destroys thousands of copies of Army officer’s memoir (CNN)

VP’s official residence getting security upgrade


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