Monday federal headlines – September 14, 2015

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on the Federal Drive and In Depth radio shows. 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.

  • A group of Democrat congressional members have introduced a bill to avoid a government shutdown. The Prevent a Government Shutdown Act of 2015 gives Congress an ultimatum: Use bipartisan talks to strike a funding deal, or automatically raise spending caps for Defense and non-Defense spending. Some Republicans have attempted to tie the spending bills to women’s health groups that use federal dollars, but GOP leadership said it does not want to shut down the government. Congress has until the end of September to make a decision on the budget. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Census Bureau detailed how it plans to test mobile devices for the 2020 population count. In a Federal Register notice, Census said it plans to use mobile computing devices, email, text messages and applications in self-enumeration and data collection tasks. Census said it will conduct a series of small-scale tests to research and evaluate how the use of automation can improve data collection activities. These tests will explore how the bureau can use automated processes to improve efficiency, data quality, and response rates and reduce respondent burden. The bureau said the enumeration functions research will focus on using various applications to enumerate households and persons. (GPO)
  • Women-owned small businesses are now eligible for sole-source contracts, bringing them on par with other socioeconomic programs. The Small Business Administration issued a final rule detailing how the program should work. Women-owned small firms and economically disadvantaged women-owned small firms are eligible for sole source contracts worth no more than $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and no more than $4 million for all other contracts. Congress opened the door for sole source contracts for women-owned businesses in the 2015 Defense Authorization bill. The new rules go into effect Oct. 14. (Federal Register)
  • The defense, intelligence and space communities will soon have a new way to share information and data with each other. The Defense Department is partnering with the U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Space Command and Intelligence Community to set up the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center. It will develop, test and check new space system tactics and procedures for DoD and the Intelligence Community. The new center will also have the capabilities to back up the Joint Space Operations Center at Vanderberg Air Force Base in California. About 30 people will develop the facility and requirements at first. (DoD)
  • The Internal Revenue Service’s process to prioritize and select what cases of unpaid taxes to pursue needs some work. The Government Accountability Office said the IRS should provide specific, written objectives for its automated collection system. The number of employees on the ACS staff dropped 20 percent over the last two years. And the number of cases that didn’t get processed is up 21 percent over that same time. (GAO)
  • Scientists working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have already shown it’s possible for a patient to move a prosthetic limb though brainwaves. But a new round of Defense-backed research takes things a step further. It looks as though it’s possible for an amputee to experience the sense of touch via a prosthetic hand. The research was unveiled last week during a DARPA conference in St. Louis, Missouri. In a blindfolded test, a 28-year-old who’d been paralyzed for more than a decade was able to tell, with perfect accuracy, which finger was being touched on his prosthetic hand, via wires connected between the limb and his motor cortex. The breakthrough could have major implications for the treatments for wounded warriors and others with neurological injuries. (DARPA)