Thursday Morning Federal Newscast – Dec. 30

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 FBI Laboratory is defending itself against charges that servers full of DNA information were moved improperly. New Mexico’s DNA index was relocated this week from the city of Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Media reports have suggested the move was not in keeping with protocol. FBI has responded, saying that state authorities — not the FBI — have the power to move the servers. Officials also said the relocation was in compliance with all rules on moving data.
  • Lockheed Martin and Austal USA are the winning bidders of a massive Navy contract to build 20 new combat ships over the next five years. Each company will be awarded more than $3.5 billion by the end of the deal – or about $440 million per ship, The Wall Street Journal reports. That’s well under the Congressional cost cap of $538 million per ship. Lockheed and Austal will each build 10 of the coastal warships, with the first due September 2011 and the rest to be delivered by 2015. The deal is part of the Navy’s plan to build a 55-ship program. Four of the shore-hugging combat ships have already been built under a separate contract.
  • The Office of Special Counsel is backing a whistleblower’s allegations of foot dragging on helicopter safety at the Federal Aviation Administration. The OSC found FAA failed to to issue Airworthiness Directives, which warn pilots about safety problems with their aircraft, in a timely way. Three of those safety warnings sat for seven years — without reaching the pilots. FAA administrators now say they are taking the steps to fix the safety gap – including creating a group to standardize the process for sending out Airworthiness Directives.
  • NASA is looking for the engineers and technologists of tomorrow. The agency is accepting applications for its 2011 space technology graduate fellowship. NASA says the program is an important part of its drive to find, train, and retain talent and keep America’s space program competitive. The fellows will have a chance to perform technological research alongside NASA scientists. The application deadline is February 23.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is bringing archives of data on the Deep Water Horizons oil spill together in one website. On the site you can find maps, wildlife reports and scientific information used by emergency responders after the disaster.
  • The United States has started planning for the possible evacuation of its embassy in Ivory Coast. The State Department is concerned about post-election violence in that country. Spokesman Mark Toner said a team of eight Pentagon officials is now in the Ivory Coast capital to weigh the U.S. options. Last week a rocket-propelled grenade hit the outer wall of the compound. The U.S. has called for president Laurent Gbago to step down.
  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dared the U.S. to expel his ambassador to the U.S. The Obama administration did just that. Chavez barred the U.S. diplomat Larry Palmer from coming to Venezuela as ambassador. Palmer had commented on the low morale of Venezuelan troops. That ticked off Chavez, who then challenged the Obama administration to retaliate. Yesterday the Venezuelan ambassador was sent packing. Palmer is awaiting Senate confirmation.