Friday morning federal headlines – Oct. 7

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.

  • Federal CIO Steven Van Roekel is pushing harder at data center consolidation than his predecessor, Vivek Kundra. Van Roekel told federal CIOs to count anything that contains servers and storage as a data center, NextGov reports. The old definition said a facility had to cover at least 500 square feet to be counted as a data center. The new definition raises the count from 2,100 to 2,800. Agencies turn in their consolidation plans today. Van Roekel expects 472 data center will be gone within a year. (NextGov)
  • Software giant Oracle Corporation has agreed to pay nearly $200 million plus interest to settle a false claims lawsuit. The suit concerned the contract Oracle held under the GSA’s Multiple Awards Schedule program. The Justice Department said it’s GSA’s largest false claims settlement ever. The suit was first brought by a whistleblower, and later joined by the government. The suit claimed Oracle failed to give government customers the same discounts it gave commercial customers, as required under federal rules. Oracle denies the charges. A company spokesman said it elected to settle rather than face drawn-out litigation. The whistleblower is former employee Paul Frascella. As his share of the recovery, he receives 40 million dollars. (Federal News Radio)
  • The head of the Energy Department’s embattled clean energy loan program is stepping down in what officials said is a planned departure. Jonathan Silver has headed the loan program since November 2009 and leaves to join a nonpartisan think tank. The loan program has come under fire from Republicans after California solar energy company Solyndra collapsed despite receiving a $528 million federal loan. President Barack Obama defended the loan program Thursday, saying officials knew some companies that received government aid were likely to fail. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new program designed to attract interns, fellows and new hires into federal government is being criticized for circumventing hiring rules. The National Treasury Employees Union said the new Pathways Program seeks out applicants with little experience over those with proven success in their fields. NTEU President Colleen Kelly also criticized the lack of a cap on the number of hires under the program. Pathways is a three-track system that replaced the Federal Career Internship Program in March. The three tracks are for current students, recent graduates and the Presidential Management Fellowship. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Transportation Security Administration is installing 300 new body-imaging machines in 29 small and regional airports. That will make a total of 101 airports with the new gear. The millimeter wave machines have software designed to spot hidden metal objects without showing details of people’s anatomy. The administration has requested funds to buy another 275 machines this year. (TSA)
  • Budget cuts have stopped a renovation project at the General Services Administration’s headquarters building in Northwest D.C. That means employees in temporary housing will move back in by Feb. 2013, 18 months early, Federal Times reports. A planned expansion to the headquarters is on ice indefinitely. GSA wanted to expand its headquarters, but Congress cut GSA’s construction budget by 90 percent in 2011, and even less is expected this fiscal year. Employees learned of the shrunken plans in a video from administrator Martha Johnson. (Federal Times)
  • Several groups are planning to sue the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the Sacramento Business Journal). They claim the EPA failed to identify certain communities with unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to formally identify areas that are not meeting ozone standards. The group Public-interest law firm EarthJustice claims Washington D.C., Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and two-dozen other communities across the country should’ve been designated as violating ozone standards. (Sacramento Business Journal)
  • You’re not the only one to pick up on the late-changing fall foliage. The federal government has noticed, too. An ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey said fall remains a mystery, and it isn’t clear what is causing trees to hold onto their color. Researchers at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center partnered with Seoul National University in South Korea and used satellites to show the end of the growing season was delayed by six-and-a-half days from 1982 to 2008 in the Northern Hemisphere. The Geological Survey is working with NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, watching the change of seasons from space, by focusing on Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. (Federal News Radio)
  • Architect Frank Gehry is hoping to bring a piece of the heartland into the nation’s capital with his design for a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower. But he might have a hard time convincing the National Capital Planning Commission. Gehry wants to create woven metal tapestries to frame the memorial. The Commission has reservations over the scale of the 80-foot tall columns that would hold those tapestries.The proposed site for the memorial is just off the National Mall. It would include scenes of a Kansas landscape with grain silos where “Ike” grew up. (Federal News Radio)