Tuesday Morning Federal Newscast – December 14th

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Have you gotten used to that $230-per-month transit subsidy? Federal employees could continue to receive it, thanks to a provision in the tax legislation now being debated in the Senate. GovExec reports, until the stimulus bill was passed in early 2009, federal and private sector workers could receive no more than $120 a month for aid to getting to work. But the higher subsidy ceiling will expire December 31 unless Congress acts. The tax bill would extend the $230 limit for another year. The Senate is likely to vote on its version of the tax bill this week.
  • The Office of Personnel Management wants to make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to closing agencies during severe weather this winter. Director John Berry is set to announce a new set of “closure status definitions” for the 2011 winter weather outlook. The formal announcement is set for tomorrow, just as another round of blustery air makes its way through the DC region. Federal News Radio will be on hand for the announcement, which will include the long-range forecast for the season, how OPM will make decisions about closings and delays, and what the new set of “closure status” definitions will be.
  • He’s being remembered as a giant of U.S. diplomacy. The State Department says Richard Holbrooke has died. He had surgery Saturday to repair a torn aorta. President Barack Obama praised Holbrooke for what he calls “tireless diplomacy, love of country and pursuit of peace.” World leaders and fellow diplomats are also praising Holbrooke. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani leader Asif Ali Zardari paid tribute to Holbrooke’s diplomatic skills. Holbrook was 69 years old.
  • The commander of the Defense Logistics Agency’s Troop Support unit has been relieved of that command. Air Force Brigadier General Scott Chambers had been in charge of food, clothing and medical supply purchases for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. NextGov reports, Chambers was the target of a recent inspector general report. DLA’s director, vice admiral Alan Thomson, said the allegations in the report were substantiated. Neither Air Force nor DLA officials would describe the allegations. Richard Ellis, a retired Navy officer, is acting in Chambers’ place.
  • Agencies developing interagency contracts may need to write a business case explaining why they need one instead of using an existing contract. That’s one of four new requirements for interagency contracting in an interim rule by the Federal Acquisition Regulations Councils. They’re implementing provisions in the fiscal ’09 defense authorization bill. The interim rule does not apply to agencies developing multiple award contracts just for internal use.
  • The administration has released a guide to help agencies improve e-rulemaking. The document outlines a number of goals, including better public access to federal regulatory content. OMB Watch reports the document also includes plans for timelines on regulations.gov that will show where a rule is in the development process.
  • Microsoft and the federal government have teamed up to help small businesses with technology. The software giant and Small Business Administration have published a book with tips for harnessing technology to build a competitive edge. The guide includes an online training course. It also includes a foreword by Magic Johnson — yes, THE Magic Johnson — who writes about using technology to build his multimillion dollar company.
  • CSC is looking to buy back about a billion dollars in company stock. The Washington Business Journal reports the company’s board of directors has authorized the plan but has set no timing, deadline or commitment to execute the buyback. CSC CEO Michael Laphen issued a statement saying that the move represents an attractive investment opportunity. CSC has 7,300 employees in the Washington area, and had $4-billion in revenue in the second fiscal quarter.
  • White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says it might not be possible to name a replacement for President Obama’s economic adviser Larry Summers by the end of this year. Gibbs says that’s because of a very full legislative calendar facing the administration in December.
  • Waleed Abdalati has been selected as NASA’s chief scientist. The 46-year-old associate geography professor will start the two-year term in January. Abdalati directs the Earth Science Observation Center at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies, a venture of the university and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Abdalati will be chief adviser to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency’s science programs, planning and science investments. He’ll work with the White House, Office of Management and Budget, and Congress.
  • The federal government should auction off the D Block radio spectrum and let the winning bidder pay for a nationwide public safety communications network. That’s the view of former FEMA director James Lee Witt. He tells a gathering of public safety officials, if federal agencies are simply given the spectrum, they’ll be on the hook for the network. NextGov reports, Witt estimated the cost of building a national, wireless emergency communications system at $48 billion. Earlier attempts by the FCC to auction the D-Block spectrum were unsuccessful.

More news links

Norton: Interior ethics probe a waste of money

OIG wants BLM to step up horse management research

Black segregation in US drops to lowest in century

‘Jeopardy’ to pit humans against IBM machine

Tax package heads toward passage in Senate

Quiz: On the Federal Payroll (U.S. News & World Report)


Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

** We continue looking at the big stories of 2010 — today, we’ll ask U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra what his big story is and get his assessment of the open government initiative.

** And you’ve been told not to look at the WikiLeaks leaks. It could threaten your security clearance. How much of an issue is it? We’ll talk to an attorney how to avoid problems.

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


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