Wednesday Morning Federal Newscast – September 29th

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 trial of two former Blackwater contractors charged with killing civilians will have to start all over again. A mistrial was declared yesterday when the jury failed to reach a verdict. The Virginian-Pilot reports jurors were equally split. Christopher Drotleff and Justin Cannon are charged with shooting and killing two unarmed Afghan civilians in Kabul last year after a traffic accident. The government says the shootings were fueled by alcohol and anger, but the men say they acted in self defense. A new trial date was set for March 1.
  • The Senate is moving ahead with a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown at week’s end. The continuing resolution easily cleared its first hurdle by an 83 to 15 vote Tuesday and is on track to pass the Senate today. The House is expected to clear it for President Barack Obama’s signature before the budget year ends at midnight tomorrow.
  • The pressure is mounting for agencies to become more transparent and to improve accountability. A bipartisan group of Senators has introduced a bill that would require agencies to post performance data on a single public website each quarter. Right now, they submit that information to Congress annually. It would also mandate the designation of Performance Improvement Officers and a Performance Improvement Council. The bill sponsors say the proposal is aimed at getting agencies to focus on reducing duplication and saving money.
  • The Senate has passed a measure that could change how agencies write documents. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 would require agencies to use what the bill sponsors call “clear, concise, well-organized” language that follows the best practices of plain writing. Those requirements would apply to new publications, including forms and publicly distributed documents. The bill now goes to the House.
  • Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has proposed a permanent DOD inspector general’s office to oversee wartime contracting. She cited success of the Special Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction in rooting out waste, fraud in abuse. GovExec reports that McCaskill, a former state auditor, also noted DOD’s goal of saving $100 billion over five years. She said its likely that $100 billion has gone up in smoke in Iraq.
  • A new interagency working group will help stop counterfeit goods from entering the Defense Department’s supply chain. NextGov reports, the move follows a White House plan to combat intellectual property theft. The task force is headed by Victoria Espinel, the intellectual property enforcement coordinator at the Office of Management and Budget. Agencies on the working group include National Security Council, Small Business Adminstration, NASA, the General Services Administration, and the Commerce, Defense, and Homeland Security Departments.
  • A bit more transparency is coming to the Supreme Court. The high court will release audio recordings of its oral arguments sooner than it has been. Audio will now be posted to the court’s web site on Fridays of the weeks in which is hears arguments. It already posts transcripts the same day, but tapes have not been widely available until conclusion of the court’s term. The exception has been news media, which gets tapes the same day. But now media will also have to wait until Fridays.
  • The Supreme Court says it will hear appeals by Boeing and General Dynamics in a long-running lawsuit over the Navy’s 1991 termination of a stealth fighter jet contract. It’s a case which the government is demanding $3 billion. The justices decided to review a U.S. appeals court ruling that says the Navy was justified in canceling a $4 billion dollar contract for the A-12 stealth attack jets after it encountered serious technical difficulties.
  • The General Services Administration has awarded two massive stimulus construction contracts worth $176 million. One grant worth $124 million includes work on GSA’s own building. The Washington Business Journal reports that the 93-year-old building will get glass atriums, first-floor retail, condensation recapturing, and solar power. The entire renovation is slated to be done in 2015. Meanwhile, another $52 million grant will pay for work on the first phase of a modernization of the Lafayette Building on Vermont Avenue, which houses the Department of Veterans Affairs. That work should wrap up by fall 2015.
  • The FCC is thinking about opening up the 700 megahertz public safety spectrum to broadband uses. But first it is seeking public comment. The FCC’s goal is development of a nationwide, interoperable, broadband wireless network for first responders. But the agency has run into opposition from police, fire and other public safety officials who worry that traditional, narrow-band use of the 700 megahertz segment would be squeezed out by broadband. In its call for comments, the FCC says it wants to see if the two uses can co-exist. Comments are due January 7.
  • Health and Human Services has completed its national network of Regional Extension Centers to help doctors, hospitals and clinics convert to electronic health records. The final two awards will cover Orange County, California and New Hampshire. CalOptima Foundation received a $4.6 million deal, while the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative won a $5.1 million award. In all, HHS has named 62 centers to cover all parts of the country.
  • Looks like there’s one less thing for you to worry about this flu season. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health say that swine flu is no longer a major threat to the U.S. population. Looks like about 59-percent of us are immune to H1N1. Approximately 62 million people were vaccinated against the virus, 61 million people were infected by it, and another 60 million people 57 or older carry protective antibodies. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells USA Today that it is very unlikely that the virus will explode this fall. Still, people with chronic health conditions remain vulnerable.
  • It might make sense to shop around for discounted drugs for your pet. But the Food and Drug Administration wants to you beware. The FDA has released a warning – and a video – with advice on how to keep your pet safe. For example, if the ad says you don’t need a prescription from your vet, beware. The FDA says that it has found companies that sell unapproved drugs, expired medication, and counterfeit products for your dog or cat.

More news links

NIST Strengthens Laboratory Mission Focus with New Structure (NIST press release)


FBI whistleblower trial highlights bureau’s post-9/11 transformation (WashingtonPost)

Haiti still waiting for pledged US aid

Report: Indian Health Service hired criminals

NATO confirms senior al-Qaida commander killed

Energy Dept. commits $1 billion to FutureGen


Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

** Apps for Healthy Kids is the Agriculture Department’s $60,000 challenge to create apps to inspire kids to eat heathy and get moving. The winner will be announced today. We’ll talk to the person behind the innovative contest and have details on the apps.

** And super bar codes are called Quick Response codes or QR codes. Are there government uses? We’ll find out.

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