Monday morning federal headlines – March 5, 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 Office of Personnel Management wants to know how much agencies are paying toward student loans. Many departments offer repayment for certain federally made or guaranteed student loans, to recruit and retain highly qualified candidates. OPM wants to know the number of federal employees who receive student loan repayment benefits, the job classification of each recipient and the total dollar amount of student loan repayment benefits. OPM is also looking for agencies to share best practices, lessons learned and details on how effective the program has been. Reports from agencies are due by March 31. (
  • The Obama administration has been encouraging agencies to use challenges and prizes to crowdsource innovative ideas. Now OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has come out with an FAQ. It helps guide agencies through using platforms, such as,, and how to stay in compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act. (
  • A high ranking Army buyer says the service has fixed most of its procurement problems. Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, the Army’s top uniformed acquisition official, cites rapid deployment of a bomb-resistant vehicle and upgrades to the M4 rifle. Phillips says those, and other programs, show the Army can deliver new capabilities on time. An independent Army acquisition review looked at 15 years of Army acquisition. It showed the service spent $1 billion a year on programs it wound up cancelling. The reasons? Cost or schedule overruns or unnecessary risk aversion. (Federal News Radio)
  • FEMA says it hasn’t yet received requests for federal aid following severe tornadoes this weekend in parts of the midwest. It credits state, local and tribal government response, along with voluntary agencies and private groups. FEMA has deployed teams to support damage assessments in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia. Those assessments help state officials decide if they need federal help. The agency has also deployed liaisons to the Indiana and Kentucky Emergency Operations Centers to assist in coordination efforts. FEMA sent an Incident Management Assistance Team to Indiana. And, it sent community relations teams to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia following requests by governors. (FEMA)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department will pick a new contractor to develop parts of an integrated electronic health record system. It cancelled a contract last week because the vendor turned out to have conflict of interest problems. NextGov reports, VA will select a replacement from among the original bidders. Those include Harris, SAIC, CACI, SRA International and 7 Delta. The $102 million contract first went to ASM Research. (NextGov)
  • Senators are telling the Veterans Affairs secretary to trademark the phrase, GI Bill. That would give the department control over who uses the phrase and how they use it, Federal Times reports. The recommendation was headed by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). He wants to stop for-profit colleges from using the word GI Bill in their advertising. Harkin and 12 colleagues made their recommendation in a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. The government already trademarks the words Social Security and Medicare. (Federal Times)
  • The Treasury Department is proposing new rules for agencies and vendors to submit electronic payment requests. Treasury will deploy an Internet Payment Portal late this year. Starting Oct. 1, contractors will have to submit requests electronically through the portal in order to get paid. The department says the portal will benefit agencies by eliminating the need to file and store paper payment documentation; by reducing the time of agency personnel researching and answering payment status questions; and by providing vendor and department-wide visibility into contract payments. Vendors will benefit because the portal will reduce the time to payment and reduce costs from having multiple processes and requirements. (GPO)
  • An Integrated Project Team at the Interior Department is exploring how to modernize its data centers. Interior issued a request for information asking for vendors to provide ideas and best practices for managing large scale infrastructure. The agency specifically is interested in ideas for storing and managing applications and data. Responses to the RFI are due March 30. (Interior Department)