Monday morning federal headlines – Dec. 5, 2011

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.

  • Contractor and government relations appear to be getting more contentious. Bid protests are up, and more contractors are being suspended or disbarred. The Government Accountability Office reports, it received more then 2,300 protest cases in 2011, the most since 1995. But the number of cases settled by alternative dispute resolution fell. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy reports, suspensions or debarments rose by 200 in 2010. The uptick occurred before the White House started urging agencies to sharpen their suspension and debarment skills. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Postal Service is pushing ahead with plans to reduce costs and avoid bankruptcy, the Associated Press reports. That means closing about half the mail processing centers across the country and lowering delivery standards for first-class mail. Currently, first-class mail is supposed to be delivered to homes and businesses within the continental U.S. in one day to three days. That will lengthen to two days to three days. The estimated $3 billion in reductions, are expected to be announced in broader detail later today. (Federal News Radio)
  • Economic, environmental and health concerns have created interest in so-called “green building” initiatives. Now it is time to see how those initiatives are working. The best way to measure success could be working together. The Government Accountability Office found that about one-third of the initiatives have performance measures. And, auditors found that agencies with green building initiatives for the nonfederal sector may be missing opportunities to reach agreement on government-wide goals and measures for assessing their progress. (GAO)
  • A chance encounter with Vice President Dick Cheney at a shopping center in Colorado allowed Steven Howards to express his disgust with the Iraq war, the Associated Press reports. It also led to Howards’ arrest by Secret Service agents. Five years later, Howards’ claim that the agents detained him because of his criticism could come up before the Supreme Court. We’ll find out today if they’ll take up the case. The federal appeals court says Howards can sue, claiming he was arrested in retaliation for speaking out. But what makes the ruling unusual is that the same court concluded that the agents had reason to arrest him for denying that he touched Cheney. (Associated Press)
  • Housing and Urban Development’s Deputy Chief Information Officer for business and technology is retiring. Chris Niedermayer steps down after 33 years of federal service. His last day was Friday, Dec. 2. HUD CIO Jerry Williams says Niedermayer has been an integral part of establishing strong IT investment management policies at HUD. Patsy Garnett, HUD’s chief IT transformation officer, will assume his responsibilities. (Federal News Radio)
  • Customs and Immigration Services has put a major automation system on hold. USCIS has been trying to digitize applications for legal residency. It’s spent $1.7 billion so far. NextGov reports, the planned December launch has been delayed to next year. There is no specific date now for the rollout. The program known as Transformation has been plagued with technical errors. Last week. USCIS ran a test of about 1,500 cases. Nearly 400 failed. Officials worry, immigration reform pending in Congress could overwhelm the agency if applications can’t be automated. (NextGov)
  • It was a dream come true for jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts. A team based in San Francisco has claimed a $50,000 prize for successfully un-shredding destroyed documents. The reward was part of a challenge staged by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA wanted to see if shredded documents recovered by U.S. forces could be pieced back together to get information. Or if enemies could put together paper shredded by U.S. forces. Turns out, they can. The winners were able to read a document cut into 6,000 bits. (Federal News Radio)
  • Asian American federal employees want to increase their ranks within the Senior Executive Service. Asians represent 6 percent of the total workforce, but only 3 percent of the SES. The Asian American Government Executives Network launches a program to give 20 Asian-American employees one-on-one mentoring and training. They’ll focus on cultural issues that might be limiting Asians’ ability to move into the highest ranks of government. Applications are due Dec. 16. The training gets underway in March. (Federal News Radio)
  • The military is planning a $300 million intelligence campus in Bethesda, Md. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Defense Intelligence agencies are working together to overhaul a 40-acre, 870-thousand square foot space vacated by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The project would house a hub of the federal government’s intelligence-gathering agencies. Washington Business Journal reports, plans it could take five years to develop and means up to 3,000 workers may have to move off MacArthur Boulevard and Sangamore Road for some time. (Washington Business Journal)