Thursday Morning Federal Newscast – September 2nd

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.

  • NASA has launched a competition open to anyone who can create jobs for an estimated 9,000 contractor employees. That’s how many people will lose their current jobs when the Shuttle program ends next year. Winners will receive 35 million dollars in grants. NextGov reports, the contest is contingent on Congress approving NASA’s 2011 budget. If the money isn’t appropriated, the contest would be moot. The grants are administered by the Commerce Department, with applications due October 15.
  • The Pentagon wants troops to know that the change from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn will not affect combat and other hazardous duty entitlements they receive. The Defense Department says servicemembers will still be able to receive hardship duty pay, hostile fire and imminent danger pay, and other incidental expenses related to their deployment with the transition to Operation New Dawn. The President designates combat zones through an executive order.
  • The Pentagon’s Central Command wants to send $1.2 billion dollars over five years to help build up Yemen’s security forces. The Obama administration believes Al Qaida is getting stronger foothold in that country. The Wall Street Journal reports, the funding proposal has touched off a controversy. Opponents of the plan in the Pentagon and at the State Department believe Yemen’s government is too weak to be trusted with U.S. dollars. Over the past nine months, the administration has ordered several missile strikes from unmanned aircraft on suspected Al Qaida operatives in Yemen.
  • Emergent BioSolutions has been awarded more funding to create a more advanced anthrax vaccine. The Washington Business Journal reports the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded the contract to Emergent for advanced development of the company’s third-generation anthrax vaccine. The four-year contract is worth up to $28.7 million dollars. In 2008, Emergent won a $29 million dollar contract for the anthrax project, bringing the total funds for the work to nearly $58 million dollars.
  • Most congressional websites are, well, pretty lousy. That’s the conclusion of three professors who ranked the sites of all members of the House and Senate. NextGov reports, the research was done in 2006, but nothing much has changed since then. In a Brookings Institution report (pdf), the professors said lawmakers’ Web sites are not created with visitors in mind and appear to be a low priority. The researchers measured the sites against nearly 100 points of operational criteria, such as how well they track issues, or how extensively they use blogs and other technologies.
  • We are another step closer to a Smart Grid for our region. Baltimore Gas and Electric has hired a California company to provide the technology to upgrade its power system to a smart grid. That means installing the so-called smart meters. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that Silver Spring Networks, based in California, will provide the new meters to be installed at BGE’s 1.1 million electric utility customers. The company will also provide hardware and software that will allow two-way communication between the customer and the utility. No word on the value of the contract, but BGE is spending $833 million dollars on the smart grid upgrades.
  • The Army private suspected of sending classified documents to the WikiLeaks web site was suspected of mental instability and had his weapon disabled. The Washington Post reports, the lawyer representing Bradley E. Manning said Manning’s sergeant was so concerned, he removed the bolt from Manning’s rifle and sent him to a chaplain for counseling. But Manning was not removed from his work as an intelligence analyst, according to the attorney. Nor was he referred to mental health services.
  • More than 7-in-10 likely voters surveyed by Rasmussen want Congress to cut its pay until the federal budget is balanced. 8-in-10 say that pay raises for Congress should require voter-approval. 54 percent believe most federal workers are overpaid, meaning 46 percent either disagree or are not sure. The survey polled 1,000 people and has a margin of error of three percentage points.
  • The Postal Service begins contract negotiations with the largest of its four unions. The American Postal Workers Union represents about 211,000 clerks, mechanics, drivers, custodians and administrative people. USPS begins negotiations with the National Rural Letter Carriers Association next week. Contracts with both unions expire on November 20th.
  • The Department of Labor has posted online its first-ever Labor Day video. Instead of giving the traditional “State of the American Worker” Labor Day speech in front of a small group, Secretary Hilda Solis this year recorded a video both highlighting the department’s support of and commitment to the American worker. And workers are able to reply to the secretary via email:

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