Monday morning federal headlines – Sept. 17, 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.

  • NASA needs to make sure astronauts are safe aboard commercial spacecraft. Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Dyer, the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel chairman, said NASA’s plan has holes. He said the cart is ahead of the horse. Companies are designing space vehicles before NASA sets the safety requirements and certification process. He predicted NASA would have challenges in certifying private aircraft as safe enough. Dyer spoke before a House committee last week. Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas) questioned NASA’s acquisition strategy. He suggested that funding it would be a risky proposition. NASA wants to send astronauts to the International Space Station on commercial flights within five years. (House)
  • The U.S. military’s top officer said insider attacks are a “very serious threat” to the war effort in Afghanistan. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said something has to change, and the Afghan government needed to take the problem seriously. In remarks to the Pentagon’s own news service, Dempsey said “You can’t whitewash” the problem. U.S. officials said they were working with the Afghan government to re-screen 16,000 local police throughout the country and improve screening of new recruits. Over the weekend, British and American soldiers were killed by Afghan policemen in two separate attacks. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House said sequestration would be “deeply destructive” to national security and civilian agencies. In a new report, the Administration gave the most detailed picture yet of what the federal government would look like under the spending cuts scheduled for January. Most civilian agencies would see their discretionary budgets cut by more than 8 percent. The White House said that meant fewer FBI and Border Patrol agents and food-safety inspectors. Defense discretionary funds would be cut by 9.4 percent. That means non-deployed units, equipment and facilities and research and development would take the hit. But the White House remained optimistic that Congress would pass a bill to avoid sequestration. It told agencies to continue normal spending and operations. (Federal News Radio)
  • An old post office could become your next office, if agencies follow through on a plan promoted by government auditors. The Government Accountability Office said agencies should be talking with each other about their real estate needs Some agencies, like the Postal Service, own plenty of space that they don’t need. Other agencies want to expand and are renting space from others. GAO said agencies could even share space and that could make it easier on Americans to get the services they need. But it said the Postal Service, the General Services Administration and other agencies need to coordinate. (GAO)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is taking a multimillion-dollar step towards cloud computing. The agency has awarded a nearly $10 million, four-year contract to Lockheed Martin. The company will provide and maintain the Microsoft Office 365 Collaboration Suite. It includes email and other communication tools. EPA said it would let employees collaborate better, and it would give the public greater access to agency research and publications. EPA said it would save up to $12 million. (EPA)
  • U.S. Embassy officials in Pakistan said all Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi are safe after clashes broke out between protesters and police. Police said hundreds of Pakistanis protesting an anti-Islam video broke through a barricade and reached the outer wall of the consulate. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said all Americans who work at the consulate were safe. Anti-U.S. protests in 20 countries led the Pentagon to dispatch elite Marine anti-terrorism teams to Libya and Yemen. It also positioned two Navy warships off Libya’s coast. Meanwhile, the State Department ordered all nonessential U.S. government workers and their families out of Sudan and Tunisia.