Wednesday morning federal headlines – Dec. 7, 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.

  • Foreclosed, vacant and unattended homes can cause a lot of problems in your neighborhood and, local governments are having a hard time keeping up. The Government Accountability Office took a closer look at how different federal agencies can help state and local governments maintain vacant properties. The local municipalities say they need money and oversight from the federal government to keep up with local property maintenance codes. GAO says the Federal Reserve, Census, Office of Comptroller of the Currency, FHA and the Federal Housing Finance Agency can all play a role. Also, Treasury says the data in GAO’s study can help the governments work together on solutions. (GAO)
  • SAIC has landed a tire supply contract that could be worth more than a $1 billion. The Washington Business Journal reports, the Defense Logistics Agency has awarded SAIC the deal to provide supply chain management of land and aircraft tires used by the Armed Services and Foreign Military Sales customers. The single-award indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract has a five-year base period and a two-year option. SAIC says if that option is exercised, the contract could be worth more than a $1 billion. (Washington Business Journal)
  • A longtime Federal Communication Commissioner is stepping down after more than a decade on the job, the Associated Press reports. Michael Copps says he’s retiring by year’s end. He did not give a reason in his public resignation letter. Copps says he still plans to speak about broadband expansion and other issues as a private citizen. Copps was the only commissioner to vote against Comcast Corp.’s takeover of NBCUniversal last year, saying the deal put too much power in one company’s hands. His departure leaves two Democrats and one Republican on the Commission, with two vacancies. President Obama has nominated Jessica Rosenworcel, a former legal adviser to Copps, and Ajit Pai, another former FCC staffer, to fill the seats. (Federal News Radio)
  • This is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the Associated Press reported. Seventy years ago today, on a quiet Sunday morning in Hawaii, everything changed. Hundreds of Japanese warplanes swooped over Pearl Harbor, attacking the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Nearly 24-hundred Americans died in that attack. Twelve ships were sunk or beached, nine others were damaged. The U.S. lost 164 aircraft. The attack plunged the United States into World War Two. President Franklin Roosevelt went before Congress to ask for a declaration of war, which Congress approved within hours. Today, flags are to be lowered to half staff from sunrise to sunset to honor the Americans who sacrificed their lives that day. (Associated Press)
  • Lawmakers want to know how long it really takes veterans to get the mental health treatment they need, the Associated Press reported. Congress wants to assign an Inspector General to conduct an audit of wait times for soldier returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Witnesses tell the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee this week that veterans suffering from PTSD often wait longer than 14 days before getting their first appointment, and that follow-up visits can take much longer. Veterans Affairs has increased the resources going into mental health care, but the large number of troops returning from the war continues to stress the system. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) say hearings have shown that even veterans who attempted suicide had their appointments postponed. (Federal News Radio)
  • FAA administrator Randy Babbitt has resigned, the Associated Press reported. His deputy, Michael Huerta will serve as acting administrator. Babbit was on administrative leave following a drunken driving arrest Saturday night. In accepting Babbitt’s resignation, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he was disappointed he didn’t hear about the incident until Monday afternoon. But LaHood praised Babbitt’s record of public service. Before becoming acting administrator, Huerta had been leading the effort to finish an air traffic system modernizing project called NextGen. Huerta held several Transportation Department posts during the Clinton administration. (Federal News Radio)
  • Contractor employees who blow the whistle would get more legal protections under a new Senate bill, according to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is the bill’s principal backer. She says company employees working on federal contracts should have the same protection as federal employees. McCaskill’s bill has drawn support from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). He calls whistleblowers the eyes and ears of us all, regardless of where they work. The bill is modeled after the 2009 recovery act, which included retaliation protection for private sector whistleblowers. (GovExec)
  • The 2020 Census may still be eight years away but the Census Bureau is already testing commercial mobile devices. Census hired Agilex under a four-year, $6.4 million contract to provide technical services to the Census field organization. The company will develop apps to support field activities on tablets. Census will test them on the hundreds of smaller surveys it conducts between the decennial counts. Census CIO Brian McGrath says the bureau will also test mobile devices to support telework. This comes as Census closes six of 12 field offices. An experiment in using mobile devices for the 2010 didn’t work out. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House today votes on a bill to sharply rein in federal regulatory agencies, the Associated Press reports. Backed mainly by Republicans, the bill would make it harder for agencies to establish new regulations without Congressional approval. It’s aimed at rules likely to cost industry more than $100 million. Under current law, Congress must pass a joint resolution signed by the president to stop new regulations. The bill is unlikely to pass the Democratically controlled Senate. The Office of Management and Budget recommended that the president veto it, should it reach his desk.