The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear the fate of General Stanley McCrystal today, following a White House meeting. McCrystal, the commander of forces in Afghanistan, will also participate in the monthly war review meeting in person, rather than by videoconference. At issue are remarks critical of members of the administration made by McCrystal and his staff — all reported in Rolling Stone. The episode touched off a political firestorm in Washington. The McCrystal flap occurs as the U.S. struggles to gain the upper hand in Afghanistan.
Lawmakers are ready to get an earful from two of the nation’s leading online retailers and largest customers of the Postal Service. The Washington Post reports Netflix and Amazon are prepared to testify on Capitol Hill today about how cutting mail delivery back by one day a week will impact their business. Netflix says the cuts would have little impact on its subscribers. Amazon calls the cuts a bad idea. Meanwhile, CVS, which ships prescription medication by mail, told postal officials during a town hall forum that cutting back delivery days would shift costs to their customers. The Postal Service is considering eliminating Saturday delivery, although post offices and P.O. boxes would still be open.
It’s official: OMB Director Peter Orszag has confirmed plans to leave his job in July. Orszag’s announcement sets him up to be the first high-profile member of President Obama’s team to leave the administration. Rumors of Orszag’s plans have circulated around Washington for months. The White House says it’s looking at a number of candidates to replace him.
Federal CFOs were responsible for nearly $100 billion in erroneous spending in 2009. Through ineffective internal reviews and reporting, as well as outdated technology, GovExec reports federal auditors estimate that $98 billion was incorrectly spent as the federal government tried to counter the sagging economy with programs such as Cash for Clunkers and other disbursement efforts.
The General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service awarded its national broker contract to four real estate giants. The move jump-starts a new contract cycle after nearly six years. The Washington Business Journal reports the contract allows GSA to get help from private commercial brokerages for real estate leasing services. GSA says that’ll help them negotiate the best market rates. This, after President Obama ordered federal agencies to eliminate excess properties and save three billion dollars by fall of 2012. The new contracts have a one-year base period and can be extended for a total of five years.
The Small Business Administration has a new deputy administrator. Marie Johns was confirmed Tuesday. Johns is founder of the Washington D.C. Technology Council, has also chaired the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Greater Washington. She spent 21 years in the telecommunications industry. Currently, Johns is a managing member of L&L Consulting, a public policy consulting practice.
House Democrats look to cut discretionary spending levels next year to below what the president has proposed. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says democrats will skip a traditional budget resolution for 2011. Instead, they’ll offer a “budget enforcement resolution.” Now, as part of that, the government could see a 2-percent cut in non-security spending in the next three years. And The Hill Newspaper is reporting that could be followed by a two year spending freezze. The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats say the idea could save more than $400-billion dollars over the next decade.
The Obama administration is requesting money for one thousand new Border Patrol agents and two more aerial drones to help patrol the border with Mexico. The $500 million request, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also includes scores of other federal law enforcement officers, according to the New York Times. The new DHS agents would be in addition to 1,200 National Guard troops the president wants to send. The request comes in response to calls for action from border state members of Congress.
The White House vows to re-impose its moratorium on deep water offshore drilling, after a federal judge overturned the six-month ban. A temporary injunction by U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman may not cause a run on drilling, since oil companies are likely to wait to see results of the administration’s appeal. Judge Feldman called the drilling ban “a blanket, generic, indeed punitive moratorium” and the administration’s thinking “heavy handed and rather overbearing”, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Tough IG report for the Federal Aviation Administration, and its efforts to rebuild the nation’s air traffic control system. The report, posted online by GovExec, says the agency must be more realistic with short term and mid term goals, and make more careful risk assessments. The inspector general found FAA met only 11 of 51 benchmarks in its 2009 strategic plan for the NexGen system. The agency is converting air traffic control to a satellite-based system, and away from ground radars. The IG said the FAA is risking years of delay and billions of dollars in cost overruns.
The federal government is about to have a new website to help people figure out their health insurance and for healthcare providers to be more competitive. www.HealthCare.gov goes live on July first. It will list private and public insurers in your area, along with a list of healthcare plans and links for more information. By October, the site is expected to include side-by-side cost comparisons and detailed benefit information.