Monday morning federal headlines – Feb. 20, 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.

  • Four small companies have received contracts to supply commercial satellite services to military and civilian agencies. The contracts run for up to five years with a $900 million ceiling. The awards were made jointly by the General Services Administration and the Defense Information Systems Agency. Winning companies are eligible to compete for professional support services such as analysis and testing. A later set of awards will provide the satellite services themselves. They’re all part of the Future Commercial Satellite Communications Services Acquisition program. Initial winners are AIS Engineering, By Light Professional IT Services, Knight Sky Consulting and Associates and Ulti-Sat. (DISA)
  • The FCC plans to expand its program of measuring broadband speeds throughout the country. It’s calling for new volunteers for its 2012 Measuring Broadband America program. The first round of testing has been running for a year. It placed routers that measure upload and download speeds of the 13 largest wireline broadband suppliers in volunteers’ homes. Now the FCC wants to measure more locations, technologies and providers. To sign up as a volunteer, go here. (FCC)
  • We’re learning more about Friday’s sting in which The FBI arrested a Moroccan man for plotting a suicide bombing in the Capitol. An undercover agent posing as an Al Qaida operative handed Amine El Khalifi a bomb vest before arresting him. The bomb was a fake. The operation, court papers show, had been running for a year. El Khalifi started out wanting to bomb synagogues and restaurants before raising his ambitions to take out the Congress. A bond hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. (Federal News Radio)
  • More details emerging on the fatal shooting between Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in Long Beach, Calif. Sources tell the Associated Press, agent Ezequiel Garcia shot Kevin Kozak six times. Kozak, who survived, is the deputy special agent in command. Kozak had turned down Garcia’s request for a transfer. They were about to meet to discuss Garcia’s job performance. A third agent shot and killed Garcia. The shootings were the latest in a series of public embarrassments for ICE. Its officers and agents have been arrested for crimes, accused of improper relationships with informants and convicted in embezzlement cases. (Federal News Radio)
  • Two departments have spent a total of $1.2 billion over the past five years on redundant IT projects. The Government Accountability Office found 37 redundant programs at Defense and Energy and Homeland Security, 31 at DOD and six at Energy. GAO found the Navy alone has four personnel assignment systems. DOD and Energy cite decentralized control over IT budgets as one reason the redundancies occur. GAO also looked at Homeland Security, but didn’t find duplicative IT projects. (GAO)
  • With scant funding for 2013, the Homeland Security Department will redo its schedule for completing a new headquarters in Southeast D.C. Next year will be the third year in a row Congress and the Administration will have granted only a fraction of the requested construction spending. Federal Times reports, DHS is preparing a new project plan it will release by Oct. 1. The plan will show more modest future budget requests and emphasis on only the most critical construction steps. Originally, DHS planned a 2016 occupancy of a new headquarters costing nearly $3.5 billion. (Federal Times)
  • A new bill aims to level the playing field for small businesses competing for bundled contracts. The Contractor Opportunity Protection Act would beef up the appeals process for small firms and third parties. A third-party arbiter would let the Small Business Administration appeal questionable bundling decisions. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Allen West (R-Fla.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), who chairs the House Small Business Committee. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Army is gearing up to restart its move to the email cloud. The service says the process will begin by March 17. Congress put the migration to DISA servers on hold with the 2012 defense authorization bill. Lawmakers wanted the Army to write a report about why the move makes the most sense. This is the second delay. In August, the service had to stop because of technical problems. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Navy is trying to figure out how to navigate a new ocean. It’s the ocean of data produced by thousands of sensors around the world. Navy leadership is planning to take a so-called big data mining approach to turning all those bits and bytes a into decision-making information. Rear Admiral Jan Tighe is the newly designated Director for Decision Superiority. She says her plan is to tag all the data, and make it discoverable in a cloud. That way, Navy decision makers around the globe could tap it any time. (Federal News Radio)
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is recommending the President issue recess appointments for about 90 vacancies — if Republicans don’t agree to confirmation votes soon. Reid says the vast majority of the nominees are not controversial. He wants an up or down votes after next week’s recess. Nominees awaiting a vote include Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, who has waited more than 70 days for approval, and acting Deputy Secretary at Housing and Urban Development, Maurice Jones. The Washington Post reports, Senate Republicans are balking at Reid’s recommendation, calling it unconstitutional. (Washington Post)
  • The Food and Drug Administration will investigate whether inhalable caffeine is safe or a dietary supplement like one company claims, the Associated Press reports. The caffeine is sold in lipstick sized canisters. Consumers put one end of the canister in their mouths and breathe in, releasing a fine powder that dissolves almost instantly. It’s called AeroShot and didn’t require an FDA review before hitting the because it’s sold as a dietary supplement. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) says he met with FDA’s Commissioner and she agreed to review the safety and legality of AeroShot. (AP)