Tuesday morning federal headlines – Dec. 20, 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.

  • Lockheed Martin has won a $167 million contract to come up with a block upgrade for a transport plane, the Washington Business Journal reported. The Air Force awarded the deal to enhance the C-130J Super Hercules transport. The enhancement, called Block 8.1, contains software and hardware upgrades. C-130J aircraft are currently in production for the Air Force and the Marine Corps. Iraq, Israel, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Oman and Tunisia also use the planes. C-130Js are also flown by Australia, Canada, Denmark, India, Italy, Norway, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Coast Guard. (Washington Business Journal)
  • Even with a budget boost, the Securities and Exchange Commission says it won’t be needing that new space at Constitution Center. The Washington Business Journal reports the SEC won’t move into even a part of the 900,000 square feet it leased in southwest, despite the $136 million boost in federal funds. The SEC leased the space in 2010, thinking that they’d be hiring more people. That didn’t happen. They’re still working with the General Services Administration to flip the lease. (Washington Business Journal)
  • Military personnel could move faster through airport security lines and so could their families if a Senate bill becomes law. Congress is expected to sign off on the bill that sets up a separate system to screen troops, who are considered a low security risk. USA Today reports this is the latest move to shift security screening to a risk-based strategy. The legislation asks TSA to develop expedited screening for members of the military traveling in uniform and carrying their orders. The bill specifically seeks to ease the screening of combat boots. Relatives accompanying a servicemember also would get expedited screening. (USA Today)
  • House Republicans are moving to reject a two-month extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut that cleared the Senate in an 89 to 10 vote, on Saturday. House Republicans say they don’t want to wait two months. They’re demanding their colleagues in the Senate come back from holiday break for negotiations. Senate majority leader Harry Reid has said he will refuse to negotiate until the House passes the short-term version. The expiring measures include a two percentage point cut in the Social Security payroll tax and extended jobless benefits for almost 1.8 million people who will lose them next month if Congress doesn’t act. Both sides insist they want to pass the provisions before they expire on Dec. 31. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Postal Service could be looking at a much needed reprieve. The massive funding bill passed by Congress over the weekend includes language giving USPS eight months to make a $5.5 billion prepayment to the federal employees retirement fund. The Washington Post reports they’ll have until August to make that FERS payment, potentially saving the agency billions. Meanwhile, Postal and two of its major unions have agreed to extend labor contract negotiations yet again.The new deadline is Jan. 20. Postal says the extension would allow the parties to continue to work on important health care, workplace and other contractual issues. (The Washington Post)
  • The Justice Department says a three-year blitz by the Obama administration has recovered nearly $9 billion in fraud against the government. Nearly a third of the money came in as a result of whistle blower complaints. Tony West, assistant attorney general, says that since the False Claims Act was amended in 1986, the government has recovered $30 billion. Most of the recoveries have come from fraud against health care programs. But the government has also gotten money back from contractors who overcharged for goods and services. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new program office at NIST is designed to bolster U.S. manufacturing. The National Institute of Standards and Technology will house the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, or AMP. AMP is an Obama administration initiative to bring together corporate, federal and academic manufacturing experts. They’ll guide the awarding of grants to help new manufacturing technologies. The AMP program office will be headed by Mike Molnar, the chief manufacturing officer at NIST. He joined the government after a 25-year career in industry. He was an executive at Cummins, a maker of engines. (NIST)
  • When it comes to its own websites, the federal government has a lot of cleaning up to do. One in five federal web domains is dormant. A third of agencies lack standard policies and procedures for their websites. And few agencies impose design or content standards across their sites. Those findings from the most recent State of the Federal Web Report. It’s based on a survey of thousands of federal sites and the people responsible for them. (USA.gov)
  • The company responsible for web addresses is about to launch an international effort to boost the number of top-level domains. The Federal government is saying, not so fast. The Federal Trade Commission says new domain name endings increase the potential for fraud. Chairman Jon Liebowitz asks the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, to limit the January test program. Right now there are 22 top level domain names, like dot-org, dot-com and dot-gov. ICANN envisions a thousand new ones. NextGov reports, Liebowitz thinks that vastly increases the power of phishing scam artists. (NextGov.com)
  • When the Coast Guard moves to its new headquarters in southeast D.C., it will be alone for a while. That’s because Congress has denied funding for the Homeland Security Department to build the rest of its headquarters. Congress imposed a five year delay on having FEMA, TSA and other agencies build there. Federal Times reports, that delay will boost the ultimate cost of the project by $500 million. In the fiscal 2012 omnibus bill, the Coast Guard receives $56 million to complete its building. But there is no additional money for the rest of the development planned for the site overlooking the Anacostia River. (Federal Times)