Wednesday Afternoon Federal Newscast

President Barack Obama’s demands to kill off a super-expensive, ultramodern fighter and the way-over-budget, behind-schedule presidential helicopter has d...

President Barack Obama’s demands to kill off a super-expensive, ultramodern fighter and the way-over-budget, behind-schedule presidential helicopter has drawn a sympathetic hearing from a Senate panel. The F-22 fighter – aimed at maintaining U.S. dominance in air combat – is considered poorly suited for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the VH-71 is the high-security replacement for the aging fleet of presidential helicopters. By a unanimous vote, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense approved $636 billion dollars for the Pentagon for the budget year beginning October first. That total includes $128 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill rejects Obama’s $100 million request for the Pentagon to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

It looks like the District of Columbia government may get a shot at some of the land from the soon-to-be-vacated Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the future. The Washington Business Journal reports that both the State Department and the General Services Administration won’t need all the land they requested at Walter Reed. The campus, located on Georgia Avenue in upper Northwest, is scheduled to close in 2011 as a part of the Base Realignment and Closure plan. Walter Reed’s medical functions are expected to merge with those of the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. The Journal reports that the Army is now working with the DC government to come up with a development proposal for the remaining Walter Reed land. That plan is expected sometime by the end of next year.

Federal investigators are searching for suspicious transactions in the personal bank records of a retired Army colonel who ran the contracting office in Baghdad during the early stages of Iraq’s $125 billion dollar reconstruction. The focus on Anthony Bell opens a window into the scope of a long-running inquiry of fraud and corruption that’s gathering steam even as U.S. forces are beginning to leave the country. While contracting procedures and oversight in Iraq have improved dramatically in recent years, that hasn’t slowed investigators trying to piece together the scale of corruption that undermined the largest nation-building effort in U.S. history.

Federal health officials favor approving GlaxoSmithKline’s long-delayed vaccine Cervarix to prevent the leading cause of cervical cancer in U.S. Women. The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine panel voted overwhelmingly that the vaccine appears safe and effective for girls and women ages 10 to 25. If the FDA follows the group’s advice, Glaxo would begin competing against Merck’s vaccine Gardasil, which has controlled the U.S. market since 2006. Cervarix’s launch was delayed in 2007 when the FDA said it needed more data on the vaccine.

Hot Springs National Park will be the first site featured in a line of America the Beautiful quarters starting next year that will feature a national park from each state and U.S. Territory. Hot Springs was the first park to receive a federal designation. The quarters will be issued in the order that the various parks and sites were established as national sites. The “heads” side of the coin will still feature George Washington. The U.S. Mint will issue five new quarters per year.

Other News Links

Hoyer: Stopgap spending measure will be necessary (Congress Daily/GovExec)

Berry: Administration will support pay parity – after 2010 (Federal Times)

Kabul embassy whistleblower’s resignation raises questions (GovExec)

Telework experiments can breed acceptance, observers say (GovExec)

Report gives Obama administration mixed review on secrecy practices (NextGov)

Mars and Moon Are Out of NASA’s Reach for Now, Review Panel Says (Washington Post)

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