Monday federal headlines – January 6, 2014

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.

  • A besieged Homeland Security Department contracting shop is throwing up its hands. Nearly 50 companies have filed protests to its IT services contract known as Eagle II. DHS says it will re-evaluate the bids. That prompted the Government Accountability Office to dismiss all of the protests, saying they’d be moot. DHS gave contracts of 15 companies last year for the seven-year, $22 billion Eagle II project. An industry source tells Federal News Radio, the agency received more than 70 bids. In 2009, mass protests forced the General Services Administration to award contracts to all bidders for a government-wide acquisition contract. (Federal News Radio)
  • About the best thing you can say about bid protests is the situation isn’t getting any worse. The number of bid protests filed by companies with the Government Accountability Office fell 2 percent in 2013 from 2012’s record levels. In its annual report to Congress, GAO says it received 2,400 protests last year. Of those, it reached decisions on the merits of 509 cases, also down from a year earlier. Contractors only prevailed in 17 percent of those cases. GAO names four of the most common reasons for sustaining protests: Agency failure to follow criteria for evaluating solicitations, inadequate documentation, unequal treatment of bidders and unreasonable price or cost evaluation.(Federal News Radio)
  • The Interior Department has abandoned a program to designate certain rivers as blue-ways. The designation was supposed to recognize conservation efforts. But landowners, aided by their lawmakers, opposed the plan. They worried it would lead to new regulations and land seizures by the federal government. The National Blueways System was created in May 2012 as part of President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Only two rivers received the blue-ways recognition, the White River in Missouri and Arkansas and the Connecticut River in New England. The Connecticut will keep its designation. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell pulled the plug on the program. (Associated Press)
  • The Pentagon is updating its military identification policy to bring it line with recognition of same-sex marriages. The Hill reports, the new regulations will be published in today’s Federal Register. The Defense Department formally recognizes the words “spouse” and “marriage” to include same-sex couples. As an interim rule, it goes into effect immediately, but it carries a 60-day comment period. The so-called don’t ask, don’t tell policy expired in 2011. Last year the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. That prompted the Pentagon to begin offering benefits to legally-married same-sex spouses. (The Hill)
  • Come June, troops in many parts of the world will no longer earn danger pay. The Pentagon removed about a third of the sites off its list saying troops are no longer in imminent threat. Those places include the Persian Gulf, Kuwait, East Timor and Rwanda. It is the first revision in five years. But Army Col. Steven Warren says it’s routine. It has nothing to do with the tight budget. About 50,000 troops will see pay cuts of as much as $225 a month. Military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Egypt and a few other Middle East hot spots will still get danger pay. (Defense Department)
  • A secret court says the National Security Agency can keep collecting data on Americans’ telephone use. While the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s ruling is routine and required every so often, it comes in the middle of a heated legal battle. The administration is appealing a federal district court decision declaring the program unconstitutional. A presidential advisory panel has recommended sharp limits on the program as well. (Associated Press)
  • Merge the Commerce and Labor Departments, add the Small Business Administration and shave off the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Three Republican senators are proposing this reorganization. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) says it would cut wasteful spending and streamline economic missions. It’s the latest plan to makeover the Commerce Department. President Barack Obama proposed an overhaul in his State of the Union address two years ago. (Senate)
  • The White House says a pair of new rules will strengthen the federal background check process and help keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. The Justice Department is clarifying legal terms to help states determine what information should be shared. The White House says this will make the federal background check system more reliable and effective. The second rule comes from the Health and Human Services Department. It’s meant to encourage hospitals and other care providers to share information about patients. The White House stresses the information is limited. (Associated Press)