Monday Morning Federal Newscast – June 28th

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear confirmed John Pistole by a voice vote. Soon after, the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union announced plans to petition him on collective bargaining rights for TSA screeners. Both unions are vying to become the exclusive representative for TSA. So far, Pistole hasn’t given his views on bargaining rights. No word on when he will be sworn in.

  • More than 30 IRS employees took advantage of the first-time homebuyer credit — even though they may already own property, reports An inspector general’s report says that’s at least one reason the government has paid more than $25 million dollars in fraudulent claims. Also behind that number, 1,300 prison inmates received money while still behind bars.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission has frozen the assets of a retirement benefits consultant the agency says defrauded federal employees and retirees. The SEC alleges that the Federal Employee Benefits Group and F&S Asset Management Group, owned by Kenneth McLeod of Jacksonville, Florida, are nothing more than a Ponzi scheme that took investors for $34 million since 1988. McLeod was found dead last week, apparently of a self-inflicted gun shot wound. His estate is charged with fraudulently soliciting government employees to invest in a non-existent bond fund. The SEC says McLeod used the money for a lavish lifestyle, including annual Superbowl trips for himself and 40 friends.
  • The Office of Management and Budget unveils new guidelines to address how agencies manage and customize their Web sites. Part of the memo focuses on privacy: agencies will need to provide a 30-day notice and comment period, before collecting personal information. It also contains rules for popular tools, like cookies which can be used to track a users activity. But agencies cannot track activity outside of government sites. The memo is designed to bring federal Web sites into parity with those in the private sector.
  • CIA director Leon Panetta, in an ABC News television interview, confirmed that the agency hired Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, to provide security in Afghanistan. Last week, the Washington Post reported the contract is worth $100 million. Blackwater was involved by a series of controversial incidents, including a 2007 shootout in Baghdad that killed 17 Iraqi civilians. Panetta said that the CIA had few companies to choose from, and that Xe Services had underbid rivals by $26 million.
  • Federal contractors may lose their ability to to spend freely on election-year advertising. The House has passed a campaign-reform bill that would stop contractors from sponsoring ads, if they have at least one contract worth $10 million dollars or more, according to GovExec. It measure would also affect companies that have received money from the Troubled Asset Relief program and firms with at least 20-percent ownership in a foreign country. The move is in response to a January Supreme Court decision that opened way for companies to spend unlimited amounts of money on political ads.
  • Trying to play catch up, the government is renewing its attempt to obtain a 21st century anthrax vaccine. The existing supply is based on 50-year-old technology and is supplied by only one company. The Wall Street Journal reports, that company — Emergent BioSolutions — is in a pitched battle with Pharm Athene to replace the vaccine. A third company won a contract in 2004 but had manufacturing problems and faced a lobbying flurry by Emergent. Another try was made in 2001. Health and Human Services is leading the effort, after the Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction gave the government an “F” for bio terror readiness.
  • The Obama administration says it will nearly double the available amount of wireless communications spectrum over the next decade. President Obama will sign a presidential memorandum that will commit the federal government to auctioning off 500 megahertz of federal and commercial spectrum. The move should help keep up with the ever-growing demand for high-speed video and data transmission to cell phones, laptops and other mobile devices.
  • Freddie Mac has fired its executive vice president of operations and technology. The Washington Business Journal reports that Michael Perlman was terminated from the position effective immediately, although he remains on the payroll until August 2, 2010. No word on why he was fired. Perlman held the job since August of 2007. He oversaw mortgage origination and servicing, investment and capital markets operations and information systems.
  • A woman who has worked at the FBI for 23 years is the new head of the FBI’s New York Division, the bureau’s largest with 2,000 agents and other employees. With a strong background in national security work and counterterrorism, Jan Fedarcyk becomes the first woman to be named an assistant director for one of the FBI’s operational field offices. Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., are the other two field offices run by an assistant director.
  • The Food and Drug Administration says many meals served to passengers on major airlines are prepared in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. USA Today looked at government documents which show that a lot of those preparation practices can make you sick. The FDA reports say many facilities store food at improper temperatures, use unclean equipment and employ workers who practice poor hygiene. At some, there were cockroaches, flies, mice and other signs of inadequate pest control. All three caterers say they work hard to ensure food is safe. And airlines say they monitor the food that goes onto their planes.
  • Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked like a done deal. The DC government would spend more than $6 million dollars for 12 acres to use as a congressional mail-sorting facility. That would clear the way for 66 federally-owned acres to be transferred to the District. But now the Washington Business Journal reports that the transfer of land from federal to District control could be scuttled because of resolutions pending in the DC City Council. Two city council members threatened to oppose the shift of funds to buy the property for the mail-sorting facility, which would delay the transfer of the other property.
  • A former priest and anger-management counselor needs a little work on his own anger control. Jose Luis Avila has been sentenced to a year in prison, after pleading guilty in a northern Virginia federal court. Avila was charged with pulling a gun in a traffic beef. The guys he pulled the gun on happened to be U.S. Marshals and busted Avila. In addition to the prison time, the judge ordered the anger-management counselor to get into an anger management program himself.

  • More news links

    Officials discuss BRAC’s impact on Fort Meade (WashingtonPost)

    Two Census Bureau managers fired for creating at least 10,000 bogus questionnaires to meet deadlines (NYDailyNews)

    Martin Ginsburg, justice’s husband, dies

    Tax agency workers surf Web too much: report (The Canadian Press)


    Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

    * The Thrift Savings Plan is gearing up to offer a Roth option. When will it happen and is it good for you? We’ll talk to Tom Trabucco of the Federal Retirement Thirft Investment Board.

    * And a status report on enterprise 2.0: where are we today. We’ll talk to the man who invented that term, MIT Prof. Andrew MaCafee.

    * Also more on the new federal policy on Internet cookies with Ari Schwartz from the Center for Democracy and Technology.

    Join Chris from 3 to 7 pm on 1500 AM or on your computer.

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