Tuesday federal headlines – August 26, 2014

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on the Federal Drive and In Depth radio shows each day. Our headlines are updated twice per day — once in the morning and once in the afternoon — with the latest news affecting federal employees and contractors.

  • Dawn Leaf, the Labor Department’s deputy chief information officer, joined Federal News Radio for a free online chat today to discuss Labor’s priorities around IT modernization. During the chat, Leaf discussed how her agency is dealing with legacy IT infrastructure issues, the agency’s thoughts on bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives, mobile computing and the “big deal” around the digital government integrated platform, among other topics. Register here to listen to Leaf’s entire online chat. (Federal News Radio)
  • Frank Kendall wants more competition for Defense Department contract dollars. So the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics issues a set of orders to Pentagon leaders. They outlined steps to enable the department to start meeting its competitive contracting goals. Among them, contracting officers will have to prove they scoured the market before awarding a sole source contract. Kendall also issued a 24-page guideline for building competitive acquisition strategies. Competition has been declining since 2008. The department has yet to meet its self-imposed goals for contract competition. (Federal News Radio)
  • The soldier at Fort Lee, who caused the base to briefly go on lockdown Monday, died after shooting herself in the head. Authorities say the female soldier, who has not been identified, barricaded herself inside a building and fired as law enforcement officials tried to negotiate with her. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. No other injuries were reported. But Fort Lee was placed on lockdown Monday morning during the incident. At the time about 1,100 people were inside the Army’s Combined Arms Support Command. An alert went off and those in the building either took shelter or evacuated. (Associated Press)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department launched a new attempt at buying a modern patient scheduling system. Officials say they plan a full and open competition to replace the antiquated system they’ve got. The department is in a hurry. It promised a final request for proposals next month, with an award by December. Revelations of excessive wait times for veterans appointments have spurred VA to speed up the replacement. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Veterans Affairs inspector general has blown a hole in a popular theory. Namely, that delays in scheduling medical appointments resulted in the deaths of veterans. Last spring, news reports said up to 40 may have died from delays getting into the VA hospital in Phoenix. But a four-month IG investigation found no proof of that. VA executives have seen a draft of the IG report, which hasn’t been published yet. (Associated Press)
  • President Barack Obama is expected to issue a series of executive actions today that tackle access to mental health treatment for former service members. Reuters reports that the President will outline the steps during a speech to the American Legion in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the middle of the day. The move comes after a $16.3 billion bill was signed earlier this month to provide veterans with more timely medical care in the wake of scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department. Obama is said to be announcing a new voluntary partnership with financial lenders to make it easier for veterans to receive reduced mortgage interest rates and reduced monthly payments. (Reuters)
  • The Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology directorate launched a crowdsourcing approach to creating a new set of goals. Using the Ideascale platform, the directorate said it was dreaming big. It proposed four so-called visionary goals it said may take 30 years to reach. They are super fast security screening, complete cybersecurity, actionable information even before incidents break out and complete situational awareness for first responders. The site is open for comments until Sept. 7. (Science and Technology Directorate)
  • A space tracking website maintained by the Defense Department is being spruced up. DoD officials just announced additions to its space situational awareness program’s website called SpaceTrack.org. The site, in existence for a decade, is a hub for organizations that conduct space operations to see where there is, or will be, space debris. The hope is that anticipating the objects will prevent collisions during missions. With the new high-quality positional information on this debris, the DoD expects to better protect satellites from objects floating in space. (Defense Department)
  • House Republicans have signed a contract with a prominent D.C. law firm to sue President Barack Obama. The law firm BakerHostetler will represent the House in the civil action lawsuit that is set to be filed in U.S. district court against the President. Before leaving for the August recess, the House passed a resolution to authorize a lawsuit against the President for his use of executive power. The contract with BakerHostetler also states that the legal costs will not exceed a “firm cap” of $350,000 in payment to the firm. That comes to $500 an hour. Democrats are adamently against the lawsuit, saying it’s an improper use of taxpayer resources. (The Hill)
  • If the federal government’s large-scale housing agencies had been more vigilant, they could have saved taxpayers billions of dollars from mortgage fraud, the Washington Times reports. The findings come from the inspector general for the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The Times article says that a new IG report is being released today. In it, inspectors determined that a massive fraud by Taylor Bean’s chief executive, which landed him in prison, could have been detected earlier. If housing agencies had shared more information with each other, they may have prevented almost $2 billion of losses at Freddie Mac, nearly $1 billion in losses at Ginnie Mae and billions more in losses at private banks that did business with Taylor Bean. Instead, there were several “unheeded red flags,” the IG report says. (Washington Times)