Thursday morning federal headlines – March 22, 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 troubled Joint Strike Fighter program has received praise from a high level Pentagon player. Frank Kendall, acting undersecretary for acquisition, said the F-35 made strong progress last year. He reiterated the plane’s future role as the centerpiece of tactical aviation. Kendall said testing is only 20 percent complete. So the plane, plagued with manufacturing and cost problems, still faced challenges. Kendall said it was unusual to produce any copies of a plane so early in its test phase. Eventually, DOD wants to buy 2,400 F-35s between all of the service branches. (DoD)
  • Federal employees with Asian backgrounds were the highest paid people under the General Schedule. Blacks, American Indians and natives of Alaska and Hawaii were the lowest paid. The most recent figures from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission showed average salaries correlated with race and ethnicity. On average, Asian employees earned about $53,000. The other groups were slightly below the average for all employees at about $43,000. In between were white and Latino employees, who averaged around $50,000. (Federal News Radio)
  • Homeland Security officials said it would take until 2022 to finish their new headquarters in Southeast D.C. Congress is being stingy on funding the new campus. It has been doling out $300 million a year, but DHS needs billions to finish the project. Department managers don’t want to take money from operations to pay for construction. Management Undersecretary Raphael Borras told a House hearing, funding by drips and drabs has increased the overall cost. (Federal News Radio)
  • An influential senator has put the kibosh on two new base closing commissions military leaders said they wanted. Marine Corps Times reported that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chairwoman of the subcommittee that oversees military installations, said her no-closures stance was not negotiable. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) also weighed in against further BRAC rounds. Pentagon officials said they needed to align real estate with a new, reduced force structure. (Marine Corps Times)
  • More than 6,000 Air Force civilian employees are about to transition to a new pay system. Now under the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System, they’ll move Sunday into a new, 15-step system similar to the General Schedule. Jennifer Mendoza, program manager for the new pay system, said no one would lose salary. Mendoza said the principle of merit-based bonuses would stay in place. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency employees would not be making the transition. (Air Force)
  • The House Budget Committee has approved the Republican 2013 budget plan, which now moves on to the House floor for a vote. The blueprint would slash $5 trillion when compared with President Barack Obama’s plan. It would also increase contributions for federal employee pension payments, and it would cut the federal workforce by 10 percent over 10 years. The document has little chance in the Senate and might even be a tough sell on the full House floor. But some of its parts aimed at avoiding sequestration cuts next year could make it through. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new procurement center could help agencies beef up business with minority-owned companies. The Minority Business Development Agency is launching the office, which would work with firms of all sizes. It’s focus will be on companies that can serve as tier one contractors. MBDA chose the Metropilitan Economic Development Association to run the center. That group is receiving a $1.8 million grant. The ribbon cutting is next Tuesday. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Air Force is using colorful magnets and logos to curb the pollution it creates. They are part of a new toolkit to educate civilian and military employees about preventing pollution. The kit also comes with banners, posters and video public service announcements. Everything in it can be customized for any Air Force base. (Air Force)
  • Repairs crews are still on site assessing the damage at a State Department complex after a fire Tuesday morning. A number of offices have been temporarily displaced, but most employees will be able to return to work this morning. The fire took broke out on the fifth floor of a the Low-Rise complex in Colombia Plaza on the George Washington University campus. Workers should call their supervisors about their work status. A daycare in that building has also reopened. The fire broke out around 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, setting off the sprinkler system and causing significant water damage. (Federal News Radio)