Monday morning federal headlines – Feb. 27, 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.

  • The Veterans Affairs Department has stopped work on an electronic health records system. A spokesman confirmed that a stop-work order went to contractor ASM. VA has been developing a joint system with the Defense Department so the two can share e-health records. CIO Roger Baker called the halted project the heart of that system. VA awarded ASM a $102 million contract in January. Baker called the award a huge strategic decision. The company did not immediately return calls for a comment. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal employees now have a new way to calculate their retirement benefits.The Office of Personnel Management launches its Federal Ballpark Estimate, a long-term retirement planning tool. The calculator includes projected Federal annuity and Thrift Savings Plan benefits. It’s meant to help feds quickly identify how much they need to save to fund a comfortable retirement. It works for employees in the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees Retirement System. It does mpt work for those within three years of retirement, in that case OPM says contact your local HR for annuity estimates. (OPM)
  • Wikileaks has begun to publish more than 5 million emails stolen from the private intelligence analysis firm Stratfor, according to the Associated Press. The hacker group Anonymous said it stole the email correspondence of 100 Stratfor employees earlier this year and would one day publish the data. WikiLeaks says some two dozen media partners are investigating the emails. Stratfor has not commented on the release but it’s CEO, George Friedman, said in January the thieves would be hard pressed to find anything significant. (Associated Press)
  • Homeland Security is going commercial with a law enforcement radio network. It plans to explore 4G LTE technology, the same one that’s so heavily advertised to consumers by the major carriers. In doing so, DHS will abandon a decade-long effort to try other technologies. CIO Richard Spires says the commercial 4G rollout is way ahead of anything the government has tried to develop. The goal is a common radio system that federal, state and local law enforcement can use to communicate during emergencies. (Federal News Radio)
  • Health and Human Services is under fire for weak performance of a new computer system. Several senators wonder why the $77 million system isn’t stopping more fraud. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched the system last summer. It was developed by Northrop Grumman and IBM. So far, it’s only saved $7,500 in suspicious payments. CMS drops an estimated $60 billion a year.Ted Doolittle, deputy director of the CMS anti fraud system, says it’s too early to judge the technology. CMS also launches an audit program for the Medicare Advantage program. It hopes to save $370 million a year. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal procurement stayed flat in 2011 for the first time in 18 years. The Office of Management and Budget reports, agencies spent $535 billion on goods and services last year. That’s the same amount they spent in 2010. Controller Danny Werfel says OMB is optimistic agency procurement spending will stay flat or drop this year. Werfel says agencies are close to reducing spending on management-support services by 15 percent this year. Last year it dropped 7 percent. (Federal News Radio)
  • The federal CIO Council gives agencies 10 considerations before buying cloud services. The council led a cross-agency effort to develop a new best practices guide for acquiring cloud computing. The document highlights areas such as standards, security and end user agreements where more collaboration across agency should occur before the contract is in place. The best practices guide encourages the CIO, general counsel, privacy and procurement offices to work together. It also gives them sample questions to ask when developing the procurement. (
  • Nominations are open for one of the most prestigious federal awards. The Presidential Rank Award honors the work of career executives and senior professionals, who have made extraordinary and lasting contributions to their agencies. It looks for those who have applied innovative and cost-saving approaches, and are willing to serve as mentors to the next generation of leaders. You have until March 26 to nominate. (