Wednesday morning federal headlines – March 7, 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 United States dropped in the rankings of an international survey of e-government capability. The U.S. now ranks fifth in the United Nations’ Global E-gov index, according to Federal Computer Week. South Korea came in first place, followed by the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Denmark and then the United States. The rankings are based on public sector capacity for using government websites and public information tools to serve citizens. The index also measured infrastructure, human capital, regulatory framework and e-participation. (Federal Computer Week)
  • The Office of Management and Budget launched its second version of the administration’s signature transparency website. CIO Steven Van Roekel said it gives more detailed and accurate information than the old version. Visitors can see the progress of individual projects. Agencies can find areas of costly duplication. There’s even a special YouTube channel with instructions on how to navigate the dashboard. The dashboard first launched in 2009. The GAO criticized it for having poor data quality. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Department’s chief human capital officer has a new job. Pat Tamburrino on Monday became chief of staff for Jo Ann Rooney, the acting undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Paige Hinkle Bowles will replace Tamburrino as the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy. Hinkle Bowles has been Tamburrino’s deputy since January 2010. Tamburrino oversaw the dismantling of the National Security Personnel System, which was created in the aftermath of 9/11 and affected 700,000 civilian defense workers. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration is extending a crucial telecommunications deadline another nine months. Agencies will have until March 2013 to move telecom services to the Networx contracts. GSA awarded Networx five years ago as a replacement to FTS 2001. But the agency’s top Networx manager said 100 agencies are still using the older contract. Meanwhile, GSA is already working on the successor to Networx. (Federal News Radio)
  • Congress is coming down to the wire on a major transportation bill. A motion to end debate failed by eight votes in the Senate last night. If the current law expires March 31, federal collection of Highway Trust Fund taxes would stop, and so would money flowing to state and local transportation projects. Congress could pass another continuing resolution, which it has already done eight times since 2009, when transportation authorization first expired. The Senate bill has bipartisan support, but Republican members have attached amendments Democrats don’t like. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Park Service has designated 13 sites in nine states, including a collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, to the roster of National Historic Landmarks. The new landmarks range from rural to urban. New York Town Hall in mid-town Manhattan made the list. Also making the list were the Mantauk Point Lighthouse on Long Island and the Braddock Carnegie Library in Pennsylvania. Funded by Andrew Carnegie and finished in 1889, the library is the oldest intact library building in the United States. (Interior Department)
  • A couple of senior lawmakers want a government-wide review of whether agencies are spying on their employees’ personal emails. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had their interest piqued when six former Food and Drug Administration workers sued the agency, claiming it was looking at whistleblowing emails. Grassley and Issa drafted a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, asking for help in assessing each agency’s guidelines on the use of personal email, including whether each agency has a policy on monitoring that email. OMB said it was reviewing the request. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Homeland Security Department said it is weeks away from detailing a plan to flag foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas in the U.S. DHS officials told Congress yesterday they would release their plans to automatically track visa overstays using biometric markers within 30 days. Nextgov reported the system would let law enforcement and intelligence officials track illegal visitors who are potential threats to public safety and those who aren’t. The disclosure came at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, which is examining the case of Amine al-Khalifi, the man who was arrested last month for allegedly plotting to bomb the U.S. Capitol. (Nextgov)
  • The Air Force plans to expand its drug testing program to look for commonly-abused prescription medications. The changes would take place starting in May. Airmen won’t notice any difference, because the urine samples they already provide will go through extra lab tests. The Air Force said it was conducting the tests in response to troubling trends in the misuse of prescription painkillers, which it said were replacing marijuana as the top gateway drug. DoD surveys showed just 2 percent of servicemembers reported abusing prescription drugs in 2002. By 2008, that figure rose to 17 percent. The service offers prevention and treatment services to airmen who voluntarily disclose a drug addiction, but those protections go away if a servicemember is ordered to take a drug test. (Air Force)
  • A misstep by a member of Ireland’s national police force is being blamed for January’s leak of a sensitive FBI conference call, according to yesterday’s indictment in a broader case that charged several members of the hacking groups Anonymous and LulzSec. The indictment says a 19-year-old hacker was able to gain access to the personal email account of an Irish officer who’d been invited to the FBI call and obtained details on how to join the conference. That hacker and six other people were charged yesterday for their involvement in several cyber intrusions, including the hacks of Sony, Fox, Stratfor and HBGary. (Federal News Radio)