Wednesday morning federal headlines – Feb. 8, 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 Federal Thrift Retirement and Investment Board is expected to issue new rules today that’ll give feds a new TSP option. It’ll add a Roth IRA investment option to the Thrift Savings Plan, letting federal employees contribute income that’s already been taxed. Under the new rules, employees will be able to invest in either the traditional TSP, the new Roth option or a combination of both. All of those investments will be eligible for agency matching contributions, but the matching funds can only go into a traditional TSP investment. The Roth plan is expected to launch sometime in the second quarter of this year. (Federal News Radio)
  • One-time presidential candidate Donald Trump has found another way into Washington. The real estate mogul has won a competition to redevelop the Old Post Office Pavilion. The Trump Organization will convert the 12-story building into a luxury hotel. The building occupies a prime spot on Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s under control of the General Services Administration. Somewhat dilapidated, the partially empty building houses a few federal offices. In 2008, Congress directed GSA to find a long-term lessee. The Washington Post reports, Trump has teamed with Colony Capital to invest $200 million in the 19th century structure. (Washington Post)
  • Energy Department officials gave out billions in dollars in smart grid grants to companies that didn’t always have adequate cybersecurity controls. That’s according to an audit by the Energy Department’s inspector general. The IG reviewed five of the grants and found three of them went to firms who had incomplete cyber security plans. The companies are being allowed to develop and implement cyber plans during the course of the three-year award period, but the IG worries the smart grid systems could be compromised before the right controls are put in place. Energy officials say they’re committed to monitoring the grants to make sure the plans are updated as needed. (Energy Department)
  • The General Services Administration has taken another step towards establishing a government-wide way to use cloud computing. It issues a concept of operations for the FedRamp program. Under FedRamp, a cloud provider would need only one security certification that would be valid for any government agency. The CONOPS gives more details on how certification would work. It requires the government to establish third party assessors to review cloud security plans. (GSA)
  • President Obama’s nominee to be the new leader of Air Force Materiel Command would be the first female four-star general in Air Force history. Lt. Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger’s nomination still needs to be approved by the Senate. She’s currently serving as the military deputy for the Air Force’s acquisition chief, and before that, she was the number two leader at Air Force Material Command. Wolfenberger would be only the second four-star general in DoD history. Ann Dunwoody, the commander of Army Materiel Command, was promoted to general in 2008. (DoD)
  • The Air Force has suspended Booz Allen Hamilton’s San Antonio, Texas, office and recommended it for debarment. The government’s Excluded Parties List says the office was suspended for violating Federal Acquisition Regulations. Booz Allen says the action relates to two current and three former employees. The company says one of the employees is a former federal worker who had taken sensitive information. When it learned of the matter, the company says it notified the Air Force and withdrew from a competition. The Air Force wouldn’t comment. (Federal News Radio)
  • NASA wants at least two private companies to design and build new vehicles that could transport astronauts to the International Space Station. The agency plans to make awards of $300 million to $500 million to each firm it selects, with contract announcements expected this summer, Reuters reports. The demonstration ships would have to be able to carry at least four people and stay in orbit for at least three days. The companies would have until mid 2014 to finish their designs. The commercial ventures could end the U.S.’s reliance on Russian spacecraft to get crews back and forth to the International Space Station. Russia currently charges NASA about $60 million a person for those rides to space. (Reuters)
  • Changes to the federal retirement system advanced on Capitol Hill. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved legislation that would make employees contribute 1.5 percent more of their salaries to their pensions. New federal hires would have to pay 4 percent of their salaries into the pension system. The bill would also end the Federal Employees Retirement System annuity supplement for people who retire before age 62. Before yesterday’s vote, committee member debated sharply along party lines. Republicans favor the changes, Democrats oppose them. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Park Service is trying to cut back on plastic water bottles on the lands it manages, and Grand Canyon National Park is going all the way. The Grand Canyon will completely end the sale of water in disposable water bottles in the next 30 days. Instead, visitors will have to bring their own reusable bottles and refill them at free water stations the park’s installing. In December, the Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis told all parks to implement a disposable plastic water bottle recycling and reduction policy. At the Grand Canyon, officials say plastic water bottles make up about 20 percent of their waste stream, and they’ve been seeing increasing numbers of them littering the canyon’s rim and interior. (NPS)