Wednesday morning federal headlines – Oct. 3, 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 Food and Drug Administration says it cannot afford to implement a new food-safety law. Reuters reports the agency is struggling to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act. Congress passed it two years ago. Now Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the FDA will issue new regulations “very soon.” The law directs the agency to establish science-based safety standards for fruits and vegetables and imported food, among other things. Hamburg said it was a “broadly expansive” mandate. Speaking at a Washington conference, she called on industry to help finance the law. (Reuters)
  • A company owned by Chinese citizens has added President Barack Obama as a defendant in a lawsuit. The suit already named Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner as a defendant. Ralls Corporation claims the government exceeded its authority when it blocked the company’s wind farm projects in Oregon. The windmills were to be located next to a Navy base. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States cited national security concerns in banning them. It also ordered Ralls to sell off the land it was going to use for the wind farm. The last time the government denied a foreign investment was during the George H. W. Bush administration 22 years ago. (Federal News Radio)
  • A Senate report has slammed Homeland Security fusion centers as wasteful and ineffective. The two-year, bipartisan investigation finds the fusion centers often gather information on innocent Americans. The report says the nation’s 77 fusion centers don’t produce much usable intelligence. And it scores the Homeland Security Department for buying expensive gadgets ranging from shirt button cameras to SUVs used mainly for staff commuting. The fusion centers were launched after 9/11. They try to bring together federal, state and local law enforcement officials to share information. Homeland Security officials disagreed with the Senate report. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department is moving ahead on a project to operate 100,000 smartphones and tablet computers. It has awarded a $4.2 million contract to Longview International Technology of Rockville, Md. The company will build a secure environment to track and manage the devices. That includes an online app store where VA employees can go to get the software they need. VA will also get a safe place to develop and test mobile applications. Longview is a service-disabled, veteran-owned company. It will partner with Agilex Technologies on the project. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Justice Department has gone real estate shopping and found a new home. It sleeps 1,600 people — prisoners, that is. Attorney General Eric Holder told lawmakers he will proceed with a $165 million acquisition of a prison in Illinois. He said the department just needs more space for regular federal inmates. Anticipating Republican opposition, Holder said the facility won’t be used to transfer inmates from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Republicans called the move political, since the money is going to the home state of President Obama. The Wall Street Journal reported the administration has wanted to acquire the property since 2009. Most of the money will come from Justice’s assets forfeiture fund. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Republican lawmakers want to know why the U.S. consulate in Libya did not have tighter security. The House Oversight Committee has called a hearing for next week. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, they said embassy staff repeatedly asked for more resources, but the requests fell on deaf ears in Washington. The committee has not confirmed witnesses but said it was aiming for a hearing a week from today. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the attack last month. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Department of Homeland Security is flying flags at half staff to remember Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie. The 30-year-old guard was killed yesterday while on patrol in Arizona. It was the first fatal shooting of an agent since Brian Terry died in a shootout with Mexican bandits. That killing led Congress to look into a botched gun-tracking program. Critics of “Operation Fast and Furious” said any time there is a shooting along the border now, it raises questions about the weapons used. Investigators have not said whether they’ve recovered guns or bullet casings at the scene of yesterday’s shooting. A second agent who was wounded by the gunfire has not been identified. (Federal News Radio)