Tuesday morning federal headlines – Dec. 13, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • We’re learning more about the omnibus 2012 spending bill taking shape in Congress. Yesterday we reported it would raise Pentagon spending 1 percent. Other details show that within DOD, the troubled F-35 fighter funding stays largely intact. And there is money to modernize nuclear weapons. On the civilian side, EPA would get a 3.5 percent reduction in its 2012 budget. House lawmakers will absorb a six percent drop in their office budgets. Top leaders are expected to unveil the budget by tonight to allow time for a vote ahead of midnight, Friday. That’s when the continuing resolution expires. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Transportation Safety Board is taking a harder look at how texting causes crashes. The board meets today to discuss a fatal road pileup in Missouri. It was caused by the driver of a light truck who was texting before ramming into a tractor trailer. NTSB chairwoman Debra Hersman says federal investigators are seeing texting-related accidents in all modes of transportation. She calls it a hot trend. The board has already called for banning texting and cellphone use by commercial drivers. (Federal News Radio)
  • House and Senate negotiators are getting close to agreement on a 2012 Defense authorization bill. It would allow a spending ceiling of $662 billion, including money for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Conferees were working to satisfy administration complaints about a provision for putting terror suspects in military custody. President Obama has threatened a veto over that point. The bill allows $43 billion less than the Pentagon spent last year. (Federal News Radio)
  • Orbital Sciences is on schedule to start a nearly $2 billion project with NASA and, the Washington Business Journal reports, the company has named its rocket program the Antares. The launch vehicle had been called Taurus II, as a follow-up to its last generation launch vehicle. Orbital, though, believes it deserves its own name. Antares will be used to deliver supplies to the International Space Station starting next year. Antares, for those who don’t know, is one of the brightest stars in the sky, a supergiant in the constellation Scorpius. (Washington Business Journal)
  • The security firm once known as Blackwater is changing its name for the second time. The new name will be Adademi, the Wall Street Journal reports. Founder Eric Prince left the company. He sold it to an investor group, USTC Holdings, a year ago. Blackwater got into legal trouble in 2007 over fatal shootings by its employees at a crowded square in Baghdad. Why Academi? The company says that’s the name Greek philosopher Plato’s gave to his institution for developing thinkers and warriors. (Washington Business Journal)
  • The highest ranking woman in Pentagon civilian history is stepping down. Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of Defense for policy, says she needs more time with her family. Flournoy tells the Government Accountability Office says all that money did what it was “supposed” to do — create jobs. The number of full-time jobs increased from 2009 to 2010, and held steady through 2011. The money also helped support medical research, funded the purchase of supplies, equipment, and scientific training of health care professionals. NIH is also participating in the Star Metrics program to monitor the scientific, social and economic impact of federally-funded science. (GAO)