Thursday Morning Federal Newscast – October 7th

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.

  • Thousands of mail-in ballots have turned up missing in the voting for who will be the next president of the American Postal Workers Union. Senior Correspondent Mike Causey reports they’ve been lost in the mail. Because so few ballots have been received, voting has been extended for one week. Members have until close of business today to request a duplicate or replacement ballot either by phone or e-mail. For details, see the Federal Report.
  • Leaders of federal employee unions said they’re being left out of decision-making that’s supposed to be part of the new labor-management partnership forums. FederalTimes reports, at a meeting of the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations, the Defense Department was singled out for having too much unilateral action by management. John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said his members are getting soured on the forums, a key management initiative of the Obama administration. OPM director John Berry said he’ll draft guidance that will tell agencies they need to involve labor more.
  • Grunley Construction Company will renovate six buildings on the Saint Elizabeths Hospital site, as part of the project to consolidate Homeland Security Headquarters. Grunley says the 2-year contract is worth $57 million. The historic buildings include a theatre, ice house and dining hall. The project is part of the first phase of the consolidation.
  • We hear a lot about LEED certification as the government tries “going green.” That’s the standard held by the U.S. Green Building Council which states that your building is an environmentally friendly place to work. And, it turns out, anyone can challenge it. The Washington Business Journal reports that the challenge can come from anyone at any time after the building is LEED certified. The Green Building Council will reportedly require that complaints be filed within two years of certification, and that a challenger must have personal knowledge of the issue.
  • President Obama today plans to sign a bill the will change how sensitive intelligence information is classified. Part of the The Reducing Over-Classification Act requires the Director of National Intelligence to establish guidelines to standardize formats for classified and unclassified data. Sponsors of the bill say that intelligence agencies have gone too far in classifying information. And they say that has caused miscommunication and confusion.
  • FBI Director Robert Mueller is calling for changes in federal law to help agents with communications surveillance in criminal investigations. Speaking at a conference of intelligence experts, Mueller said that too often, communications carriers are unable to provide electronic communications the FBI seeks in response to court orders. Mueller’s comments came as the Obama administration considers requiring service providers to make the plain text of encrypted conversations readily available to law enforcement. The new rules would apply to voice, text messages and e-mail. Mueller acknowledged the right to privacy but said people also have a right to ride the subways without the threat of bombings.
  • Immigrations and Customs Enforcement removed 393,000 people from the country during the past year, and half of them were criminals, according to the latest Homeland Security Department statistics. ICE beat the 2009 number for deportations, but fell just short of its goal for 2010. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also reported ICE arrested 197,000 non-criminal immigrants in fiscal 2010, about a third fewer than last year.
  • Defining a small business isn’t so easy. The Washington Business Journal reports that new rules by the Small Business Administration change the size standards in the retail, hospitality and restaurant industries. It is part of the SBA’s phased-in approach to update the size standards that are used to determine whether a small business is a small business. Now, instead of using annual sales or number of employees, lenders can look at the businesses’ tangible net worth and net income to determine its eligibility. The new update is expected to be completed in a couple of years. The rules were last updated in the 1980s.
  • The Food and Drug Administration has unveiled its new proposal to help improve its ability to track food safety and review prescription drugs and medical devices. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamberg says her agency will spend $25 million in the coming year to collaborate with scientists from academia, government, and industry. She says that improved scientific standards will speed the approval process and flag problems sooner. The theme is modernization, but federal funding has lagged behind the FDA’s requests. The $25 million investment is part of the administration’s proposed four-billion budget for fiscal year 2011 which lawmakers have yet to pass.
  • Verizon is about to offer the Apple iPhone. Apple is preparing the hardware, and Verizon is beefing up its wireless network to begin selling iPhones in the first quarter of 2011. In the past year, the popular iPhone has faced strong competition from phones runing Google’s Android operating system. Verizon sells several types of Droids. AT&T has had a monopoly on the iPhone in the U.S. since it came out in 2007. Federal managers are among the most ardent smart phone users, and many agencies are deploying mobile versions of online computer applications. Both AT&T and Verizon sell services under the GSA’s Networx program.
  • A team of scientists from the Army and two Montana universities thinks it has solved the mystery of what’s killing honey bee populations in the United States. The New York Times reports, the researchers believe a certain fungus is combining with a virus to kill the bees. Scientists from the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland worked with the University of Montana and Montana State University. The collaborators used a new software system developed by the Defense Department for analyzing proteins. They discovered a new DNA-based virus. That virus is somehow linking to the fungus to interrupt the bees’ nutritional cycle.

More news links

Obama upset over US intelligence leaks-intel chief (Reuters)


Pakistan doesn’t reopen border despite US apology


Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

** The Defense Department is making significant changes to its IT leadership and the CIO’s office. We’ll talk to a former deputy CIO at DOD and the man who helped write the law that created federal CIOs. We’ll talk to him about what the changes mean.

** And you want to be green, but what difference can one person make? We’ll talk to a fed who bikes to work many days. She’ll be listening as she pedals…

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