Tuesday federal headlines – January 21, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Federal offices in this region are closed today. If you are telework-ready, the Office of Personnel Management says you should do so. If you’re an emergency employee, you should come in to the office. All others get excused absences. The National Weather Service says we could get between 4 and 8 inches of snow, with higher amounts to the north. The D.C. Metro is running on a regular schedule this morning but could reduce service later today. The winter storm warning lasts until 11 p.m. (Federal News Radio)
  • Members of Congress are voicing worry about the safety of Americans attending the winter olympics in Sochi, Russia next month. The concerns follow recent suicide bombings in the country. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) chairs the House Intelligence Committee. He says American officials aren’t getting enough information needed to fully protect fans and athletes. Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, was to visit Moscow for a first-hand look at security preparations. The British newspaper, the Guardian, reports Pentagon officials are reviewing contingency plans to rescue Americans should a terrorist attack occur in Sochi. (Associated Press/The Guardian)
  • A big supplier of servers to the federal government could soon have a Chinese owner. Reuters reports, Lenovo Group has re-started negotiations to buy IBM’s low-end server business. Earlier talks broke down over the price. IBM wanted more than $4 billion. Lenovo was offering $2.5 billion. Dell is also said to be planning an offer for the IBM unit. It was also in last year’s bidding. Lenovo is the world’s largest maker of PCs. It already sells them to the federal government using a factory in Mexico. Last year, it opened a second North American plant in North Carolina. In the 1990s, Lenovo acquired IBM’s PC business and owns the Think-Pad brand. Adding IBM’s server business would help it become a bigger presence in the data center. (Lenovo)
  • The Homeland Security Department received a record number of applications for its EB-5 visas in 2013. Under the EB-5 program, foreigners who invest at least $0.5 million in a job creating venture are allowed to live in the U.S. They get a green card if the venture produces 10 jobs in two years. The Wall Street Journal reports, 6,400 foreigners applied for EB-5 visas last year. That’s hundreds more than a year earlier. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had approved 3,700 of them as of Sept. 30. The greatest number of applications come from China. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The government got tougher on health care fraudsters last year. An outside analysis shows prosecutions rose to 377, a new high, in fiscal 2013. The FBI and Health and Human Services investigated most of the cases. The Postal Service also played a role. Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse crunched the numbers after filing open-records requests. It says the Southern District of Illinois prosecuted the most cases per capita, followed by Miami and South Carolina. (Associated Press)
  • Congress gave open government a little boost in that mega-spending bill. The E-Government fund received $16 million for fiscal 2014. It’s the pot of money that keeps alive USASpending.gov, Data.gov, Performance.gov and other online dashboards. The money is roughly a 33 percent increase over recent years. It’s not as much as the President had requested. (Federal News Radio)
  • Army leaders are considering how robots might replace soldiers as the Army shrinks. They’re trying to figure out how to become a smaller, more agile force while still staying lethal. The head of the Army’s training and doctrine command is pondering shrinking brigades from 4,000 soldiers to 3,000, and making up the difference with unmanned vehicles and robots. Gen. Robert Cone says he’s even re-thinking the size of the squad, now at nine men. The Army is scheduled to drop from 540,000 troops now to 490,000 by the end of 2015. Cone says he’s assembling an advisory panel to look further into these issues. (U.S. Army)
  • The Defense Department is spending $5 million to digitize and archive priceless historic images. Officials say they’re running against time. They worry slides, photo negatives and VHS tapes will deteriorate before they can be digitized and sent to the National Archives. Their own storage facility is running out of space. The new award to T3Media lets the contractor charge non-Defense Department users a fee for using the images. Officials say that will cover some of the preservation costs. (Defense Department)
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sorted shoes at the VA medical center. Drug Policy Chief Gil Kerlikowske prepared lunch at the addiction-treatment facility Clean and Sober Streets. They were some of the federal leaders out and about town yesterday, participating in the National Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker helped pack meals at Food and Friends. (Twitter)