Tuesday federal headlines – February 18, 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 agencies in the Washington, D.C., area are open today. In Baltimore, each agency is making its own decision. Check with your agency before leaving for work. (Office of Personnel Management)
  • Increasingly, misconduct will get you thrown out of the Army. The service last year kicked out more than 11,000 enlisted soldiers for drugs, alcohol, crime and the like. That’s double the number dismissed in 2007, at the peak of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army Gen. Ray Odierno tells the Associated Press, the service might have lost focus on character issues in the past, as soldiers faced repeated deployments. Now the Army is cutting its ranks. It’s more willing and able to get rid of troublemakers. The Navy went through a similar process 10 years ago. (Associated Press)
  • A Centreville trucking contractor in Afghanistan has pleaded guilty for trying to bribe an Army service member. Akbar Ahmad Sherzai admitted to offering $54,000 if the service member would sign documents falsely stating a load of fuel had been delivered. The delivery had been classified as a no-show. Sherzai faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Justice Department. A Tennessee couple is headed to federal prison for trying to defraud the Army on truck parts in Afghanistan. Keith Johnson and his wife, Angela, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in November. Federal Times reports, Keith will serve 30 months, and Angela will serve six months. (Justice Department)
  • The President’s 2015 defense wish list calls for $26 billion in unfunded requirements, according to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) wants to hear directly from the services. He asks military leaders to tell him what they think the services need, regardless of whether those items made the White House list or not. He says in the past, defense leadership has stopped services and commands from providing that information to Congress. Reuters reports, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will preview the Pentagon’s 2015 budget request next week. (House)
  • The Pentagon’s contract awards fell to a 22 month low in January. And there’s no sign they’re going to move up any time soon. Bloomberg Government reports, awards hit $8.4 billion, compared to $25 billion in December. No single January award exceeded the $1 billion mark. Defense agencies often push contracts out in December, causing a slump in January. But last month’s drop was worse than usual. Lockheed’s chief financial officer says he’s expecting a trough in Defense contracting to last the rest of the year. Raytheon’s CFO says he doesn’t anticipate spending to rise until the second half of 2014 at the earliest. (Bloomberg Government)
  • An Iranian hack attack could mean rough going for the man nominated to be the next head of the National Security Agency. The Wall Street Journal reports, last year’s breach of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet took months to clear out. It happened when Vice Adm. Michael Rogers was the Navy’s top cyber official. At upcoming confirmation hearings, Rogers is likely to face questioning about the Navy’s response. The unclassified network is known as NCMI. It has 800,000 users in 2,500 locations. The network is owned and operated by Hewett Packard. The Navy is seeking to replace NMCI with a new network the government will own and operate. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Upon reflection, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says he should have been more up front about the government’s spy activities. He tells The Daily Beast, intelligence leaders should have leveled with Americans right after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when the National Security Agency’s phone data collection program began. That could have avoided much of the controversy, he says. He likens the program to fire insurance. (The Daily Beast)
  • It may be melting, but the Arctic region is getting a special representative from the State Department. Secretary John Kerry affirms plans to make the appointment in a letter to Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). Begich and fellow Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have been pushing Kerry to appoint someone to look after the Arctic. The United States starts a two-year term as chair of the International Arctic Council in 2015. Last fall, the White House released a strategy for the Arctic. New shipping lanes are opening up, increasing the strategic importance of the area. (Senate)
  • Can agencies free up precious wireless bandwidth so businesses can grow? If you know the answer, the White House wants to hear from you. It asks for public comments. It’s already heard from federally funded researchers. They recommend four options for sharing access to spectrum now held exclusively by the federal government. User fees might work. Establishing a central authority, like the Office of Management and Budget or the Commerce Department, might help do the trick. President Barack Obama has directed agencies to free up 500 MHz of wireless spectrum by 2020. (Federal Register)