Thursday federal headlines – February 20, 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.

  • President Obama wants to make it easier for U.S. companies to export and import. He’s pushing agencies to speed up applications processing and cut redundant paperwork. He signs an executive order aboard Air Force One en route to Mexico for North American trade talks. Obama also promises to finish work on an export-import online portal first proposed in 2006. The project has been plagued by delays and funding problems. Nearly 50 agencies have a say-so in matters relating to trade. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Federal Communications Commission takes a second shot at net neutrality. It will draft new rules to ensure broadband providers treat all Internet traffic equally. A federal appeals court struck down the current rules last month. It suggested the FCC had exceeded its authority. The agency will not appeal. In a statement, Chairman Tom Wheeler says the new proposal will meet the court’s requirements. (Associated Press)
  • Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) wants to make sure the Navy’s new drones are top notch. Forbes chairs the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee. The Hill Newspaper reports, Forbes wrote a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus asking him to ensure the UCLASS drone is fully equipped for both precision strikes and surveillance. The Navy plans to release a draft request for proposal for the new drone. If approved, the Navy will add the UCLASS drone to its carrier air wings. (The Hill)
  • We’re learning more about a Mexican border incident in which a Border Patrol Agent fatally shot a man attempting to enter the United States. San Diego County Sheriff officials identified the dead man. Jesus Flores-Cruz had been arrested in 1996 on drug charges. Officials say he threw rocks as large as a basketball at the agent, who was hit in the head. Flores-Cruz was aiming from on top of a hill. The agent feared he would be incapacitated if hit again, so he fired. The agent has not been identified. He was treated at a hospital and released. (Associated Press)
  • The Homeland Security Department has dropped plans to obtain access to a national database of license plates. Secretary Jeh Johnson personally canceled the solicitation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was seeking commercial software to search records kept by states on locations of millions of cars and trucks. The proposal said ICE was planning to use the license plate data in pursuit of criminal immigrants. Several privacy advocates had opposed the plan. Fourteen states are considering curbing surveillance. (Associated Press)
  • The Homeland Security Department has extended contracts with Deloitte and XTec for one year for the production of biometric employee badges. NextGov reports, in the meantime, DHS officials will re-evaluate a $103 million award to Hewlett Packard for developing eyeball and facial recognition credentials. That award was protested by XTec. Deloitte is installing computers, document and fingerprint scanners and smart card equipment. (NextGov)
  • A group representing services contractors is demanding answers from the Office of Personnel Management. The Professional Services Council says tens of millions of dollars in IT and other investments are being thrown away without explanation. At issue is the abrupt cancellation of a training held by Customized Human Resources Services program. Council President Stan Soloway writes to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. He says OPM should be more transparent about changing requirements and plans. (Professional Services Council)