Thursday morning federal headlines – May 24, 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.

  • The White House released a plan for the next generation of digital government. The Digital Management Strategy aims to improve citizen interaction with government. It calls on federal information managers to take modern, open-source approaches to how they handle data and content. The strategy also consolidates the acquisition of mobile computing devices and services. It establishes a new digital program office within the General Services Administration. And it requires agencies to come up with two initial projects to demonstrate the new principles. (Federal News Radio)
  • The administration plans to hire computer code writers to work on five fast-track projects. The programmers will come in under the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. They’ll have up to a year to produce results. Todd Park, the federal chief technology officer, says he’s looking for bad-ass innovators. One projects seeks to speed up two-way communication between government and citizens. Another would replace cash payments made by USAID with electronic payments using mobile devices. Park announced the coding project on the same day Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel released the administration’s digital government strategy. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Congressional Budget Office has a new estimate on the partial retirement proposal for federal workers. CBO said the plan could save $487 million over ten years, with most of the savings coming from paying smaller annuities. The government would also make $24 million from phased retirees continuing to pay into their retirement funds. The proposal has passed the Senate but has stalled in the House. (Congressional Budget Office)
  • The Navy might pay almost a billion dollars for software services. It’s given a contract to Softchoice for Microsoft program licenses and support. It’s a firm-fixed-price blanket purchase agreement. The contract, including the base period and two option periods, could be worth $700 million by June of 2015. (Defense Department)
  • The 25-point IT reform plan gets only a tepid reaction from Government Accountability Office. The White House issued the plan back in 2010. By the end of last year, only three of seven goals were accomplished, according to GAO. One reason is the complexity of the initiatives. Among the completed items is establishment of investment review boards. Still to be finished: The cloud computing plan. Auditors take exception to the White House claim that some items are complete because they’ve spurred even broader initiatives. GAO will release the report at a hearing later this morning. (Government Accountability Office)
  • The Education Department takes the prize for easy-to-understand writing. It’s earned the top award from the Center for Plain Language. The big achievement was an online brochure to help stakeholders understand the relevance of educational statistics. Judges praised its colorful design as a way to entice people to keep reading. They also had good words for other federal agencies, including Health and Human Services and the IRS. But the General Services Administration didn’t fair so well. Its Federal Acquisition Regulations earned an award for some of the worst, difficult to understand writing. (Center for Plain Language)
  • The Labor Department is giving out $10,000 in prize money for the department’s new apps contest. Labor wants someone to build an app that can help people with disabilities find jobs. This is the department’s first disability-related apps contest. It’ll have three spots, including a second prize people’s choice award. Sign up at (Labor Department)
  • Famed U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced his sudden retirement late Wednesday. Fitzgerald was known as an anti-corruption crusader who went after politicians on both sides of the aisle. He was the top prosecutor in the cases against vice presidential aide Scooter Libby, and two former Illinois governors, Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan. He has also put members of the Gambino crime family and Al Qaeda behind bars. No word on why he has decided to step down, although he has been mentioned as a possible successor to FBI Director Robert Mueller. Fitzgerald will hold a press conference this afternoon. (Federal News Radio)
  • Advocates for open government are pressing the Labor Department to restore documents about a proposed child farm labor rule. Federal Computer Week reports the documents were promptly withdrawn after the proposal was dropped. The plan would have prevented children from performing hazardous work on farms not owned by their parents. In a letter to Labor acting wage and hour administrator Nancy Leppnik, the Sunlight Foundation and other groups argue that the documents should not have been removed so quickly, regardless of the fact that the proposal was withdrawn. (Federal Computer Week)
  • President Obama will nominate John F. Sopko as Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Sopko is a partner at the law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld. He has had a long federal career. He was Chief Counsel for Oversight and Investigations for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Sopko also spent several years at the Commerce Department. One of his jobs there was Deputy Director of the National Technical Information Service. The president will also nomimate Jonathan Lippman as a director of the State Justice Institute. Lippman is currently Chief Judge of the State of New York and Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. (White House)