Wednesday Morning Federal Newscast – June 8th

New steps considered for GS grades, FDA needs food safety overhaul: report, FBI uses terror-probe tactics on fraud, Amish farming draws EPA scrutiny

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear slim their 2012 budgets by 5-percent. The memo from OMB leader Peter Orszag and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel also directs all agencies to list their worst-performing programs when they submit budgets. The move is designed to help the government keep to a three-year discretionary spending freeze for non-security programs. But the directive to cut spending isn’t new. The administration did the same thing last year.

  • Pentagon and labor leaders today will discuss adding two new steps to grades in the general schedule. Government Executive reports that topic will be included in a hearing on the Defense Department’s move away from its cancelled pay for performance setup — the National Security Personnel System. The move will affect more than 200,000 civilian feds. Defense leaders have been working on the change since the system was outlawed by the 2010 defense authorization act. Today’s discussion will come in a hearing by a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.
  • Two key senators repeated their doubts about the president’s pick to be Director of National Intelligence, retired Air Force Lieutenant General James Clapper. The Intelligence Committee Chairwoman, Diane Feinstein of California, and the ranking member, Kit Bond of Missouri, cite a 2009 memo from Clapper opposing legislation that would strengthen the ODNI, according to Congress Daily. Bond has called Clapper a good guy, but the wrong guy for the intel position.
  • Despite changes already in progress, the FDA has more work to do to keep the nation’s food supply safe. The problem? Resources at the Food and Drug Administration are stretched thin. The report by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council says the agency needs to become more efficient and better target its limited dollars to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks. The 500-page report says the FDA lacks the vision necessary to protect consumers. It offers a blueprint for developing a risk-based model, and outlines organizational steps the FDA needs to take to be more efficient. In addition, the report says Congress should consider amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to explicitly provide the authority FDA needs to fulfill its food safety mission.
  • What’s more dangerous: a terrorist or a white-collar financial con artist? These days, FBI agents are taking the same methods of hunting terrorists and applying them to weed out Wall Street corruption. The Wall Street Journal reports the FBI has has created a new system of internal intelligence reports, detailing all ongoing financial crime investigations. Investigators are also trying to cultivate more informants and sources on the ground, as well as tripwire programs, where workers can report the first glimmers of criminal conspiracy.
  • The Energy Department joins the list of agencies putting out oil spill information on its Web site. Citing the Obama administration’s transparency mandate, Energy launches a new site providing online access to schematics, pressure tests, diagnostic results and other information about the broken blowout preventer sitting atop the BP oil well.
  • President Obama has threatened to veto a Republican-led gambit to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from instituting controls on so-called greenhouse gases. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has been pushing a resolution of disapproval, seeking to stop the EPA from launching the new regulations without enabling legislation. The White House says the resolution would help continue the country’s dependence on oil.
  • Picturesque Amish country is coming under federal scrutiny. Both the Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency want to curb farming practices of the Amish in Pennsylvania, the New York Times reports. The farmers’ livestock generates manure that washes into streams, eventually helping pollute the Chesapeake Bay. An EPA official is preparing to assess fines if the Amish farmers don’t change their manure disposal practices. According to EPA data, Lancaster country produces 61 million pounds of manure a year.
  • The second death of a Mexican at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol agents in two weeks is threatening to escalate tensions over migrant issues. U.S. authorities say a Border Patrol agent was defending himself and colleagues when he fatally shot the 15-year-old as officers came under a barrage of big stones while trying to detain illegal immigrants on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande.
  • SAIC has just landed a $94-million dollar contract with the military. The Washington Business Journal reports Science Applications International Corp has been awarded the contract to coordinate quick military responses by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic. SAIC is based in McLean, Virginia. It would be responsible for program management and technical services. The contract has a one-year base period and a single one-year option with a total value of more than $94 million dollars.
  • The Patent and Trademark Office will be getting help with its IT. Guident Technologies has won a 22-million dollar contract with the Patent Office to help provide services for its data warehouse. The data warehouse is an automated information system that provides access to integrated Patent Office data. The Washington Business Journal reports the contract is for one base year, with four option years, and has a potential value of up to $22 million dollars.
  • Two Senators have introduced a bill to boost contracting for small and disadvantaged small firms. Democratic Senators Mary Landrieu and Benjamin Cardin have sponsored the Section 8(a) Improvements Act of 2010. One of its provisions would adjust the average annual income and net worth thresholds to account for rises in inflation. Another would extend the amount of time under which small businesses can participate in the 8(a) program.
  • President Obama has signed legislation that honors former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall by re-naming the Interior Department’s building for him. The measure was sent to Obama for his signature last month after passing the House and Senate. The president signed the bill Tuesday. Udall was secretary under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

  • More news links

    Security jobs come under scrutiny in insourcing debate (FederalTimes)

    Park Service Takes on ‘Transformers’ (GovExec)

    Border Patrol seeks text on suspicious activity

    6 accused in scam to sell satellites to Iran

    NASA plans Arctic mission at sea

    Here’s your chance to get your face in space

    Vintage plane flips on landing at Reagan Airport


    Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

    ** So many agencies working to find the innovators. What if there was something like the peace corps but for programmers. It is a creative idea from Matthew Burton and we’ll talk to him about it.

    ** And agencies working on competitions like apps for the Army. GSA is working on a platform to help you carry them out legally… And easily. We’ll get details.

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

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