Thursday morning federal headlines – Jan. 26, 2012

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive host Tom Temin discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Defense Secretary Leon Panetta unveils the administration’s 2013 military budget proposal later today. He’s expected to call for cutting up to a dozen Army brigades. Panetta says some parts of the budget will grow. The Obama administration wants to reduce the military footprint in Europe but devote more resources to watching China. It also wants to boost special forces and cybersecurity. To save money, the Pentagon is expected to stretch out big acquisition programs for planes and ships. The DoD budget comes out two weeks before the administration rolls out its entire 2013 request. (Associated Press)
  • A new bill would raise federal employee contributions to their retirement fund. It would end supplemental pay to early retirees, while basing retirement pay on a five year salary average. Republic Dennis Ross of Florida introduced that bill. It shares some elements with a White House proposal, which OPM tells lawmakers will save more than $21 billion over ten years. A similar bill died in the last session. Ross says his bill is not about beating up on federal workers. But he says his constituents are outraged by federal pay and benefits when compared with the private sector. (Federal News Radio)
  • Small program cuts in the 2012 budget mean pockets of federal employees will be reassigned or lose their jobs. Federal Times reports, Congress ended funding for the Baldridge Performance Excellence Program. It recognizes innovative corporations and was run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Congress also axed a 45 million dollar program for research into high risk, high rewards technology. Those moves affect 70 employees. Similar small-program cuts occurred at the Education, Justice and Homeland Security Departments. (Federal Times)
  • The Army can fight and win the nation’s wars. But it’s never been able to build a unified e-mail system. Now that goal is closer thanks to cloud computing. The Army is partway through a move to put all its e-mail accounts into a cloud. That cloud operated by the Defense Information Systems Agency. It has a single, DoD-wide directory of addresses, replacing a hodge-podge of confusing sub-directories. Alfred Rivera is director of DISA’s computing services. He says the unified directory is also more secure and easier to manage. The Army is the first agency to move into the DISA cloud. (Federal News Radio)
  • Arlington National Cemetery is on the mend. That’s the view of both the Army’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. Just a year a half ago, the IG issued a report condemning management weaknesses that led to hundreds of mismarked graves. The superintendent and his deputy were both pushed out. Lt. Gen. Peter Vangjel, the Army IG, tells lawmakers there’s been a 180 degree turnaround. But cemetery officials are still trying to find $12 million that went missing between 2004 and 2010. (Federal News Radio)
  • Boeing wins another big defense contract. The Navy will pay almost $700 million for more than a dozen F-18 jet fighters. The company will use resources all over the U.S. and even Canada to build the planes. Boeing has received more than a billion dollars in aircraft contracts over the past few days. On Monday, the Air Force announced it would pay $693 million for new C-17 transport jets. (Defense Department)
  • The safety net set up to help you if you get hurt on the job could be riddled with holes to let fraudsters in. It’s the Federal Employees Compensation Act program. The Government Accountability Office says agencies have a hard time looking out for fraud, mainly because they have limited access to information about claims and wage-loss. On top of that, a lot of the information they do get is self-reported. And GAO says the government has trouble prosecuting suspected fraudsters. (Government Accountability Office)
  • NASA gets a report card on safety. An independent watchdog says the space agency needs to tighten up a number of programs, including the International Space Station and its alcohol use and testing policy. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel gives both a red light, meaning the group has longstanding concerns that NASA isn’t addressing the right way. The panel also found problems with NASA’s commercial crew program and space launch system. (Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel)