New Friday morning federal headlines – April 20, 2012

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • If only to avoid congressional wrath, agencies are taking a closer look at spending following the GSA scandal. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said the value of the GSA example is greater than the $800,000 the agency spent on a conference. She said agencies would be extra cautious about waste. Lerner also said the GSA example would spark agency leaders to strengthen their commitment to ethics. That would let employees feel they could report waste, fraud and abuse without fear of sanctions. (Federal News Radio)
  • A major software vendor lost its GSA Multiple Award Schedule contract. Last year, Oracle Corporation did $387 million in federal sales off its GSA contract. The agency used Twitter to announce it was canceling Oracle. That means agencies will not be able to exercise options on open task orders. New ordering and blanket purchase agreements end May 17. A GSA official said Oracle was not following contract terms. Company officials were unavailable for comment. Last year, Oracle paid $200 million to settle a false claims suit. (Federal News Radio)
  • Air Force officials are fed up with a computer system that’s late, over budget and doesn’t do much. The Air Force spent seven years and $1 billion on the Enterprise Combat Support System. Now Controller Jamie Morin is telling Congress the Air Force will restructure the project. Without a functional ECSS, the Air Force won’t be able to meet its goal of a clean financial audit by 2017. Morin told the Senate Armed Services committee, he was appalled at spending so much and getting so little. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Homeland Security Department has a new assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications. Mike Locatis is moving to DHS from his job as CIO at the Energy Department. He will replace Greg Schaffer, who left in March. Locatis will lead several components at DHS. These include the National Cyber Security Division, the Office of Emergency Communications and the National Communications System. One of Locatis’ direct reports will be John Streuffert, who heads the National Cybersecurity Division. He joined DHS in January from the State Department. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Navy has a new partner in the quest for new energy. A memorandum of agreement between the Defense Department and Texas Wind Group will put turbines in planned locations in Kleberg County, Texas. The project will include 83 turbines located between nine and 11.5 nautical miles south of Naval Air Station Kingsville’s radar and navigation aids The turbines should not interfere with flight operations at NAS Kingsville. (Navy)
  • The Air Force is letting employees in danger of losing their jobs fill vacancies created by earlier buyouts. This a new step for the Air Force, which said the option would help it “rebalance.” The service begins a third round of buyouts on May 1 in an attempt to return to 2010 staffing levels. About 2,800 workers have applied for buyouts so far, which is far fewer than anticipated. (Federal News Radio)
  • Veterans Affairs is recruiting more nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to bolster its mental health clinics. All told, it plans to increase mental health staff by 10 percent or about 1,900 people. The new hires follow a months-long review that found veterans in some areas were waiting longer than they should for treatment. The agency inspector general plans to release a report on VA’s mental health care soon. (Veterans Affairs)
  • Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are teaming up in a new effort to cut waste in government. A new bipartisan bill would require Congress’ research arm to give a “duplication score” to future legislation. It would warn lawmakers before they authorize a new program that resembles an existing one. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said the new bill would “save taxpayer dollars, cut government waste and redundancies and change the culture in Washington.” The Government Accountability Office said the government spends more than $100 billion on programs that seem to overlap. (Federal News Radio)
  • At least two Justice Department lawyers could have been prosecuted themselves for failing to turn over evidence in the trial of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). That’s what former U.S. attorney Alan Baron told a House Judiciary subcommittee yesterday. His assessment flies in the face of a special counsel’s report that stopped short of recommending criminal charges against the prosecutors. Legal Times reported that Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) opened the hearing by suggesting that the lawyers “got lucky.” The Senate held a similar hearing last month. Attorney General Eric Holder asked the judge to dismiss the corruption case in 2009. Stevens died in 2010. (Legal Times)