Monday morning federal headlines – May 14, 2012

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.

  • The Office of Management and Budget has directed agencies to cut travel spending by 30 percent. In new guidance issued on Friday, OMB chief Jeffrey Zients also barred agencies from spending more than $500,000 on any conference. In addition, agencies must release public reports detailing conference spending and receive deputy secretary approval for any conference costing more than $100,000. Although the General Services Administration scandal was not mentioned in the OMB guidance, it echoes many of the changes made by the new GSA chief Dan Tangherlini. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Pentagon is trying to figure out why it has taken eight years to find and end a military training course that preaches a war on Islam. About 800 mid-level officers have taken the class at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va. The material suggested that Muslims hate everything about the United States, and that the military might have to destroy the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The course flies in the face of repeated Pentagon assertions that the U.S. is at war with Islamic extremists and not the religion itself. The Pentagon is trying to figure out who approved the course, which it suspended last month. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Marine Corps has awarded 10 companies slots on a contract to buy 400,000 computers. The Common Hardware Suite program has an estimated value of $775 million. NextGov reported it covers everything from servers to tablets. The Marine Corps wants its members to have standardized devices to connect to an enterprise network the Navy plans to build. The 10 companies would compete for task orders. They include CDWG, Dell, GTSI and several small companies. (NextGov)
  • A Senate committee has set the date for a public airing of the Secret Service prostitution scandal. Lawmakers said they expected Agency Director Mark Sullivan to testify on May 23. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee sent Sullivan a letter asking him to clarify the agency’s rules on drinking alcohol, both on- and off-duty. The committee also wanted to know the agency’s policies on paying for sex in countries where prostitution is legal. Since the scandal last month, Secret Service investigators have interviewed the prostitutes and other witnesses at the Colombian hotel. (Federal News Radio)
  • LightSquared, the once high-flying wireless broadband company, is headed for bankruptcy. The Wall Street Journal reported a chapter 11 filing could come as early as today if no deal is reached between LightSquared and its creditors. LightSquared is the brainchild of hedge-fund manager Philip Falcone. The company received a go-ahead from the FCC last year to offer its wireless service. But the Defense Department and FAA objected. They said tests showed the company’s signals interfered with GPS signals, so the FCC withdrew its approval. (Wall Street Journal)
  • If the government wants to fly unmanned aircraft over the U.S., it better figure out a way to increase safety and prevent hijackings. Pilots, airlines and plane manufacturers have sent letters to the Federal Aviation Authority warning of the dangers of drones. Next Gov reported more than 200 groups answered the agency’s call for comments. Among the concerns: Pilots said drones were 100 times more likely to have an accident than passenger planes. They said drones should have safeguards against potential hijacking and backups for GPS systems that failed. The FAA is establishing six test sites for drones this summer. (NextGov)
  • The House Armed Services Committee is saying no to a contracting suggestion from the Pentagon. The 2013 Defense Authorization bill won’t change the definition of commercial products. DoD contracting officers want the change because of perceived abuse of the term “commercial.” When an item is designated commercial, the government can use simplified buying rules. However, companies have been calling things commercial when the Defense Department is the only customer, and that’s led to abuse, DOD leaders believe. But industry groups argued against the change. (Federal News Radio)
  • Director Jeff Zients said the Office of Management and Budget is freezing the federal real-estate footprint, which means it is prohibiting agencies from buying or otherwise increasing their civilian properties except under certain conditions. OMB said agencies have saved $1.5 billion by selling, consolidating or canceling real estate projects and reducing maintenance and utility costs. It estimated that the government would save $3.5 billion in real estate costs by the end of the year. Also, it told agencies to use existing vehicles and not replace cars until they have been driven for at least three years or 60,000 miles. (White House)

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