Wednesday morning federal headlines – Nov. 14, 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 scandal engulfing top CIA and Army leadership has moved on to Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have returned from a long election-season break. Now they’re digging into the tangled tale of emails that exposed an extramarital affair of former Gen. David Petraeus. He was forced to resign as CIA director last week. Acting CIA director Michael Morell met with Senate Intelligence Committee members, who want to know if Petraeus’ mistress had access to classified files. President Obama is expected to talk about the Petraeus episode in his press conference this afternoon. Marine Gen. John Allen, who succeeded Petraeus at Central Command, is fighting for his career. Pentagon investigators are looking into his email relationship with a socialite linked to the Petraeus scandal. (Federal News Radio)
  • New analysis of federal contractor data shows big companies are getting billions meant for small businesses. Analysts at Bloomberg Government crunched the numbers. They found big firms got 45 percent of the more-than-$10 billion intended for small businesses in fiscal 2011. Experts attribute it to an overwhelmed federal acquisition workforce that doesn’t take the time to find qualified small firms. They also say there are too many exemptions and lax enforcement of the rules. Advocates say the Small Business Administration and President Barack Obama need to fix the situation now. (Bloomberg Government)
  • Federal managers who fail to follow Merit Systems Protection Board rulings may find themselves a bit poorer. Government Executive reports new MSPB rules highlight the board’s ability to suspend pay. Experts say it’s a warning to agency lawyers to pay close attention. The regulations say federal employees can petition the board to enforce settlement agreements with their supervisors. They also clarify that the board’s rulings are final if no petitions are filed. (MSPB)
  • A federal whistleblower bill years in the making has finally passed Congress, and it’s done so with the support of every lawmaker. The Senate yesterday gave unanimous final approval. That mirrors House action in September. The measure expands protections for feds who expose waste, fraud and abuse. It protects TSA employees for the first time, but it does not include national-security employees. President Obama has issued an executive order protecting them. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department has awarded the biggest federal cloud email contract yet. VA will move 600,000 accounts to the Microsoft cloud under a deal with Hewlett Packard. The five-year, $36 million task order was awarded under VA’s Total Transformation 21 contract. VA joins a growing list of companies choosing Microsoft’s Office 365 for cloud email and other online applications. The EPA is moving 25,000 users there, the FAA 60,000. (Federal News Radio)
  • Are Border Patrol agents too quick to pull the trigger? The Department of Homeland Security inspector general is investigating. Agents have killed at least 16 people along the Mexico border in the past two years. The most recent incident was in October when agents shot and killed a teen they said was scaling a border fence so he could bring drugs into the United States. They accused him of pelting rocks at officers but not of having a gun. The boy’s family said he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The case has outraged Mexican officials. There are more than 18,000 border patrol agents in the Southwest alone. (Federal News Radio)
  • Bid protests have risen to their highest level in nearly 20 years. Protests rose 5 percent last year to just shy of 2,500, the highest since 1995. The Government Accountability Office said in its annual letter to Congress that protests had been trending up since 2007. In 2012, GAO only had to make decisions on a small portion of the cases. Most are resolved when the agency withdraws the contract award, or when companies withdraw their protests. Of the cases it did decide, GAO mostly ruled in favor of the government. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is changing how it refers to the bad weather operating status of the government. Now when federal offices are closed for weather or other emergencies, OPM says: “Federal offices are closed. Federal employees required to work should follow their agency’s policies.” Offices closed means non-emergency employees are not expected to show up. They’ll get the day off at no charge to their leave balance. But it doesn’t mean the government is closed. Emergency employees and teleworkers will still have to to work. OPM said it changed the language because of confusion during Hurricane Sandy. (Federal News Radio)