Tuesday morning federal headlines – Jan. 3, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The General Services Administration is planning the first of several new government-wide contracts to buy IT equipment like commodities. It released a request for proposals last week for a blanket purchase agreement for storage, racks, routers and switches. Proposals are due Feb. 6. GSA expects to award other BPAs for laptops and desktop PCs, monitors, mobile devices and even supercomputers and mainframes in the coming months. (GSA)
  • The Federal Elections Commission is going mobile. The FEC has released the first in a series of apps for your mobile device. The mobile platform allows the public access to easily look up how much presidential candidates are spending and on what. It also has information about the commission activities. Right now it can only be used on iPhones. FEC says it will release full versions for other mobile devices at a later date. (FEC)
  • Melody Barnes has left the White House as the president’s domestic policy advisor. She returns to her native Richmond, Va., for now. Barnes said she is considering offers from the private sector. Barnes joined the administration in 2009 and worked on education and health care policy. She had been chief counsel to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) (Federal News Radio)
  • The new year brings new rules and regulations for many sectors of the economy, The Hill reports. New federal rules for light bulb efficiency began phasing in on Monday, despite fierce opposition from congressional Republicans. They had secured a measure in the 2012-spending bill, that de-funds enforcement of the regulation. But the regulations themselves remain in effect. They require traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more efficient starting this year. Other new federal rules include a 3.6 percent Social Security cost-of-living Increase for federal retirees. Truck and bus drivers face a $2,700 federal fine for using cellphones while driving. (The Hill)
  • The Federal Acquisition Regulations Council publishes five final acquisition rules today, including new requirements for multiple award contracts. Agencies now must develop a business case for new multiple award contracts. They also have to develop an analysis and obtain approval before placing an order against another agency’s contract vehicle. A second final rule tells agencies to use fixed price contracts as much as possible. If an agency decides to use time-and-materials or labor hours, they must include three provisions including setting a top end price the government will pay for the items. The other three final rules deal with brand name specifications, the new system for award management and the type of information in the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System. (Federal Acquisition Regulations Council)
  • A joint venture between Housing and Urban Development and VA has cut homeless among veterans. The number of homeless vets fell 12 percent last year. The administration has announced a goal of eradicating veteran homelessness by 2015. But the program, called HUD-VASH, is facing a flat budget for 2012. Mark Johnson is HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for persons with special needs. He says the easy cases have been taken care of. The tougher cases are more expensive. Plus, HUD VASH will have to deal with large numbers of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lesley Field is the new acting administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Dan Gordon retired Dec. 31 after holding that position for two years. He begins a new job as an associate dean of the George Washington Law School today. This is the second time Field has been acting OFPP administrator. She served in that role from July 2008 to November 2009. (Federal News Radio)
  • Alan Bersin, whose recess appointment as director of Customs and Border Protection expired last week, has a new job. President Obama has appointed him as Homeland Security’s first assistant secretary of international affairs. Secretary Janet Napolitano says, that means Bersin will act as the department’s chief diplomatic officer. She says he’ll forge new partnerships with foreign governments and international organizations. Deputy CBP Commissioner David Aguilar was sworn in as acting commissioner. Thomas Winkowski is acting deputy commissioner. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama signed the 2012 Defense Authorization into law. But he added a signing statement objecting to some of its provisions. The President expressed reservations about having to use military custody for foreign terror suspects. And he objects to indefinite pre-trial incarceration for U.S. citizens accused of terror threats. The administration was able to convince Congress to strike a provision that would have eliminated executive branch authority to use civilian courts for trying terrorism cases against foreign nationals. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Obama has put his request for a $1.2 trillion debt limit increase on hold. A bipartisan band of congressmen asked him to delay any further action. The White House was ready to ask for the increase because the government is within $100 billion of reaching the current borrowing limit. Congress is allowed 15 days to object, but lawmakers won’t return to Washington until mid-January. A senior White House official says the President will make his request within days. The Treasury Department, meanwhile, is using accounting measures to ensure that the nation does not reach its debt limit before the increase is finalized. (Federal News Radio)