Tuesday Morning Federal Newscast – April 27th

OPM plans investments in health and hiring systems, Walter Reed closing costs nearly triple, IG blasts FEMA for conflict of interest

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear track federal employees’ health claims, as well as to strengthen the agency’s financial management. GovExec reports OPM wants to aggregate data from the ten largest employee health plans so it can better analyze health outcomes and how well the plans control costs. The plan was submitted to the Office of Management and Budget Friday.

  • Some Health Insurance companies are working to provide early coverage to dependent children under age 26. The Office of Personnel Management is working with Congress to implement the health reform law to allow the dependent coverage before January 1st, according to FederalTimes. Current laws need to be changed so that dependents age 22 and older can receive the coverage before 2011. The health care reform law as written requires insurers to extend coverage to enrollees’ children in the first plan year beginning on or after Sept. 23.
  • The CIA is planning to spend millions of dollars over the next five years to improve intelligence-gathering, upgrade technology and help analysts work more closely with field agents. The plan, unveiled Monday, aims to increase the number of analysts and spies fluent in foreign languages. Director Leon Panetta said the lack of language skills has hindered military and civilian intelligence officers throughout the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The spending will also reinforce the CIA’s ability to detect and combat cyber threats.
  • President Obama orders changes designed to boost small business contracting. A set of executive orders on Monday calls for a new Web site that will publicly display small business contracting data by agency. And a new interagency task force will make recommendations for improving small business contracting. The President also ordered the creation of a task force to help companies owned by veterans.
  • Northrop Grumman will move its corporate office to Northern Virginia. The Los Angeles-based defense contractor has been on the search for a new home since January. Leaders for Northrop are looking in the Arlington and Falls Church areas. The company has said the move would mean 100 to 150 new jobs for the Washington area. Northrop will also relocate about one-quarter of its Los Angeles headquarters staff of 350.
  • The cost of closing Walter Reed Army Medical Center, replacing it with a larger complex at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and building a hospital at Fort Belvoir, Va., has risen from $1 billion to $2.6 billion, Pentagon records show. USAToday reports correcting the problems raised by Congress will cost another $781 million, according to a Pentagon report released Monday. And improvements must wait until after the new Bethesda facility – named the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center – is finished in September 2011, the report says.
  • New trouble for FEMA. Inspector general Richard Skinner has accused agency officials of conflicts of interest when switching contractors to support the National Flood Insurance Program, according to NextGov. The officials had previously worked for the new company, as did the FEMA person chosen to oversee contract performance. Skinner also found that FEMA’s Mitigation Directorate tried to develop an IT system without involving the CIO, wasting $7.5 million dollars.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration’s rollout of a new air traffic control system has added a new city. Controllers in the Philadelphia area now have the capability to use the satellite-based system to track and separate aircraft. They join controllers in Houston; Louisville, Kentucky; and Juneau, Alaska. The new system is called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, which the FAA calls a core component of its NextGen system. NextGen uses geographical positioning from satellites instead of ground-based radar. According to FAA, the Philadelphia deployment will also improve operations in Washington and New York.
  • The first test by the Pentagon of an experimental hypersonic glider went well — for a while. It was launched last Thursday, separated from its booster, and was supposed to glide at 13,000 miles per hour until it splashed into the Pacific. But telemetry was lost soon after the separation.
  • Better protection against importing of dangerous goods: That’s the goal of a memorandum of understanding signed yesterday by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin and Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. The agreement gives the consumer safety agency access to the Customs agency’s systems that track shipments coming into the country.

  • More news links

    US soldier pleads not guilty in contractor’s death

    Obama orders flags at half-staff to honor Height

    McAfee Offers to Pay for PC Repairs After Bad Update (LiveScience.com)

    Bin Laden had ‘no clue’ about Sept. 11 retaliation (WTOP.com)

    THIS AFTERNOON ON FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

    Coming up today on The Daily Debrief:

    ** You’re not alone as you try to be open and transparent. The World Bank now posts its data on living standards. We’ll get details on the site and lessons for your open government initiatives.

    ** And DOD is updating the organizational conflicts of interest rules. Attorney Marsha Madson will make sense of it and what it means for you.

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