Wednesday morning federal headlines – Feb. 1, 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.

  • House and Senate negotiators have come to an agreement on a bill to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration through 2015. It allows a budget of $63 billion in that period. That includes $1 billion a year to keep working on the Next Generation air traffic control system. The agreement is a breakthrough. The FAA has been operating under a series of continuing resolutions since 2007. At issue were several questions centering on union activities in the transportation industry. A full vote comes up in the next two weeks. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Department has awarded $18 million to six energy research programs. The labs will use the money to develop technologies that let expeditionary forces operate with less energy. The single largest award was $6 million. It went to the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, working with the Air Force Research Lab. Engineers will develop more energy efficient tents and other sheltering systems. The goal is to lessen the need for expensive, heavy and fuel-guzzling heating and air conditioning equipment. (DoD)
  • Afghan security forces working alongside U.S. troops don’t appear to be under control of the Taliban or insurgent groups. But that hasn’t stopped them from shooting and killing 70 U.S. and coalition troops in 45 incidents since 2007. Defense officials will testify on the matter today before the House Armed Services Committee. Their prepared testimony will say the Afghan troops acted out of personal motivation. In a few cases, insurgents impersonated Afghan soldiers. In the latest incident, an Afghan solder killed a NATO service member. (Federal News Radio)
  • The pressure is growing to pass a comprehensive cybersecurity bill in Congress. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is one of the main sponsors in the Senate. He says the threat of cyber attacks is greater than ever before. The West Virginia Democrat says Congress needs to create a public-private partnership to protect against and combat cyber attacks. On the House side, the Homeland Security Committee is marking up Rep. Dan Lungren’s (R-Calif.) cybersecurity bill today. Lungren’s bill mirrors much of what’s in the Senate version around protecting critical infrastructure, expanding the role of the Homeland Security Department and sharing threat data with the private sector. (Homeland Security Committee)
  • The White House isn’t giving up on a drastic reduction in contractor salaries eligible for reimbursement. The 2012 Defense Authorization bill kept the cap at close to $700,000. The President wants $200,000. In a blog post, the acting White House procurement chief chided Congress for not reducing contractor executive pay. Lesley Fields says she thinks reimbursement rates are higher than what’s justifiable. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Special Counsel is recommending disciplinary action against three Air Force officials for retaliating against civilian workers who blew the whistle on how the service was handling remains of fallen soldiers. The four workers at the U.S. Post Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del., say they suffered job termination, indefinite administrative leave and five-day suspensions for disclosing the wrongdoing. Michael Donley, the secretary of the Air Force, says in a statement they take the OSC’s findings very seriously and have appointed a two-star general to review the report and take appropriate action. Donley says the Air Force is also completing an independent assessment and provide Defense Secretary Leon Panetta with a final report on all disciplinary actions. (OSC)
  • Ever wanted to see the way cyborgs do in the movies, with computer displays implanted right into you eye? It may not be science fiction anymore. Researchers for DARPA are developing contact lenses that allow the wearer to view virtual reality images — without a bulky helmet or goggles. Digital images are projected onto tiny full-color displays very near the eye. Wearers can focus both on objects that are close up and far away. Researchers say this could allow you to use the tiny displays while sill interacting with the surrounding environment. The end goal is to get the technology into the hands of warfighters to give them greater awareness and improve survivability. (DARPA)
  • Performance improvement officers are getting the management backing they need to help their agencies. In a new Federal News Radio survey of PIOs, 70 percent said they feel as if agency management supports their efforts. The majority of PIOs also have some other job. But they do find time to work on improving agency performance metrics. Shelley Metzenbaum is of the performance and personnel chief at the Office of Management and Budget. She tells Federal News Radio, PIOs are learning to use data strategically to develop performance metrics. (Federal News Radio)