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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.
Snowmageddon, swine flu, and bedbugs: three really good reasons to telework. As bedbug treatments continue at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building in Rockville, TBD.com reports some Parklawn campus employees have opted to telework. Exterminators treated the building in October, but bedbug-sniffing dogs inspected the building November 1st and found some areas that potentially had bedbugs. Between the bugs, inspections and treatments, more employees are teleworking and those who do come into the office are told to put their work clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes when they get home to prevent the spreading the bugs.
Good news on security clearances. The administration is claiming success at reducing the backlog. Director John Berry tells a Senate subcommittee that the Office of Personnel Management finished nearly all security clearance checks within 41 days during fiscal 2009, and within 39 days in 2010. Federal Times reports, Berry’s figures were confirmed by Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act requires the bulk of clearances to be completed within 40 days. The GAO reports the Defense Department has made progress as well, completing most of the clearances in 2008 in 87 days, down from 325 days the year before.
The Homeland Security Department can’t tell what is on U.S.-bound cargo planes until after they’ve taken off. That’s too late to determine if anything dangerous is aboard. NextGov reports, manifests listing cargo contents aren’t released to U.S. authorities until wheels are up. The revelations came in Senate testimony by TSA director John Pistole and Customs chief Alan Bersin. Lawmakers were investigating the near-bombing of planes from Yemen in October. Meanwhile, Ralph Nader is calling on TSA to suspend use of full body scanners at U.S. airports. He says the government should first conduct rule making and publish information on the safety of the machines.
The White House says federal agencies recovered more than half a billion dollars of improper payments in fiscal 2010. The precise number: $687 million. OMB says that’s 3 times the amount recovered in fiscal 2009. To help agencies avoid improper payments, OMB has launched a do-not-pay list. It’s called verifypayment.gov. The site is not open to the public, so you’ll need to register for a login.
Former Democratic Budget Director Alice Rivlin is calling for an overhaul of the U.S. tax system. Rivlin and former Republican Senator Pete Domenici issued recommendations on behalf of the Bipartisan Policy Center. They join a growing list of panels and commissions with ideas for getting the federal government’s fiscal condition under control. The Wall Street Journal reports, the Rivlin-Domenici proposal calls for cutting income taxes but adding a 6.5 percent national sales tax. It also suggests a one-year payroll tax holiday. Rivlin was director of OMB during the Clinton Administration.
Veterans Affairs launches two pilot programs to speed benefit payments to Veterans with disabilities. The Express Lane pilot program is modeled after those quick lanes in the supermarket. Small teams of VA workers will quickly process less complex claims that usually involve just one disability. The Quick Pay disability program is for vets who file their claims with enough evidence for VA to decide all or part of their claims. In all cases, payments are only for vets with disabilities connected to military service.
GSA has launched a project to green the federal supply chain. The GreenGov Supply Chain Partnership is a voluntary pilot program for vendors that agree to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions. It includes technical help for small businesses that want to participate. GSA says the goal is to eventually develop contracting advantages for companies that track and disclose greenhouse gas emissions.
We told you how Lockheed Martin was able to help Census with the 2010 count, getting the work done ahead of schedule. Now we’re learning how much that work has helped one of Lockheed’s subcontractors. Just a year ago, Vangent was losing money. Today, it shows a healthy third-quarter profit, thanks to its contract to help with the Census. The Washington Business Journal reports Vangent’s government contracting division saw sales rise 26-percent. It had a third quarter net income of nearly $4 million, compared with a more than $5 million loss a year ago.
A man who could be the next chair of a House committee that oversees the FCC is pledging to break that agency’s regulatory compass. Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton says he’s after the FCC’s net neutrality ambitions, which seek to regulate how phone and cable companies manage Internet traffic. Upton is a front-runner in a battle to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee. In a memo obtained by the Hill, Upton promises to stick to conservative policies in the telecom arena. And he vows to prevent the FCC from creating net-neutrality rules.
Priscilla Guthrie is stepping down from her post as chief information officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. ODNI leader James Clapper sent out a note to agency workers thanking Guthrie for her work and announced that Charlene Leubecker will serve as acting CIO until a permanent replacement is named. Guthrie has been CIO since May of 2009 when she took over from retired Air Force Major General Dale Meyerrose. Her resignation becomes effective on Friday.
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, 6 a.m.-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere.
Tom also writes a weekly commentary. Subscribe to Federal Drive's daily audio interviews on iTunes or PodcastOne