Wednesday morning federal headlines – Sept. 19, 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 Justice Department inspector general plans to release a much-anticipated report on Operation Fast and Furious today. Its investigation into the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ gun-tracking program has continued, quietly, for more than a year. The program has become a political football. Inspector General Michael Horowitz will testify tomorrow before the House Oversight Committee. The House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over certain documents. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot to death in 2010. Two guns supposedly tracked in the operation were found at the scene. (Federal News Radio)
  • Contractor suspensions and debarments are on the rise. In its latest annual report, the White House said agencies halted business with more than 3,300 contractors in fiscal 2011. That’s up 80 percent from 2009. Both the administration and Congress have been urging agencies to make greater use of suspension and debarment to keep contractors on the straight and narrow. Figures come from the Interagency Suspensions and Debarment committee. The committee said all of the 24 CFO Act departments and agencies have appointed a senior official to oversee suspensions and debarments. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration is looking for a new commissioner of its Federal Acquisition Service. The current commissioner is Steve Kempf. He’s been on medical leave of absence since July 30. Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini said Kempf will return to GSA as a senior advisor in a couple of weeks. GSA posted the commissioner’s job announcement on GSA also has a new Public Buildings Service commissioner. Dorothy Robyn joined last month from the Defense Department. Her predecessor was fired during the scandal surrounding an expensive conference hosted by GSA’s western region. (Federal News Radio)
  • A measure to protect whistleblowers at federal contractors is inching forward on Capitol Hill. Two House members, a Democrat and a Republican, have introduced a companion bill to one that a Senate committee has passed. The measure aims to encourage contract employees to report waste, fraud and abuse by the government and their companies. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said contract workers who report wrongdoing are the most vulnerable to termination. She said most of them will not risk retaliation. (Rep. Jackie Speier)
  • It may take longer than expected before Americans can look out their windows and see unmanned drones flying. The Federal Aviation Administration may not be able to meet deadlines that Congress has set. The Government Accountability Office said FAA was struggling with safety and security issues. Lawmakers want the FAA to approve drones for U.S. skies within three years. But the agency missed a deadline to start six test programs and another deadline to publish draft regulations for small drones. GAO said FAA was moving slowly because of concerns over citizens’ privacy and the safety of aircraft. (GAO)
  • A Navy submarine commander has been relieved of his duties after lying to his mistress about his own death. Cmdr. Michael Ward was a week into his new job as commander of the attack submarine Pittsburgh when the scandal came to light. Ward, who is married, had an eight-month affair he wanted to break off. He sent an email from a fictitious friend, telling the lover he had died. She went to Ward’s home to pay respects. A new occupant of the Virginia house told her Ward had moved to Connecticut to take over the sub. Earlier this month, a Naval investigation convicted Ward of dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct and adultery. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Kremlin is fed up with efforts by the United States to promote democracy in Russia. So much so, it’s kicking the U.S. Agency for International Development out of the country. USAID must skedaddle by Oct. 1. A short statement on its website says the State Department was proud of its two decades of work in Russia. The Wall Street Journal reported, since 1992 USAIDD has distributed nearly $3 billion in aid to Russian organizations. They monitor elections and look into prisoners’ treatment. The agency has 70 staff members in Russia. They ran afoul of President Vladimir Putin after pointing out irregularities in the election that gave him his third term in office. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • NASA expects to launch space shuttle Endeavor on its final journey today. The shuttle will leave from the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando and plans a series of low flyovers en route to Los Angeles. There, it will be installed at the California Science Center. Endeavor was supposed to take off Monday but was delayed because of bad weather. Endeavour is the second of NASA’s three retired shuttles to head to a museum. The Discovery is at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. (NASA)