Wednesday federal headlines – July 10, 2013

The Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newsc...

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

  • The Navy awarded Raytheon the job of designing a new system for enemy radar jamming. The $279 million contract covers the technology development phase of the Next Generation Jammer. Eventually, the new systems will be mounted on the Navy’s EA-18G Growler aircraft. They’ll replace the existing tactical jamming system known as the ALQ-99. The Naval Air Systems Command says it expects the development phase to take 22 months. That’s when Raytheon is expected to deliver a testable prototype. NAVAIR wants to deliver the new capability throughout the Navy by 2020. Raytheon beat out three other bidders for the cost-plus-incentive-fee contract. (NAVAIR News)
  • The Pentagon is awarding $20 million in grants this year to public schools that serve military children. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the 15 winning school districts yesterday. Together they serve 23 military installations in the United States. Hagel says the money will bolster science, technology, engineering, math and foreign-language education. A second round of competition ends Friday. Schools can compete if at least one out of every six students comes from a military family. For school districts, at least 5 percent of the student population must be connected to the military. (Defense)
  • The General Services Administration is launching a reverse auction platform that it says will save agencies money on office supplies. The tool lets established sellers compete for agency dollars out in the open, presumably driving prices down on everything from pencils to computer warranties and installation. GSA says past reverse auctions have saved agencies up to 17 percent. The tool could help agencies become smarter buyers too, because it tracks line-item data by agency bureaus. Government reverse auctions have had mixed reviews in the past because of a lack of oversight. (GSA)
  • Surveillance and how far it should go dominated a confirmation hearing for President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the FBI. James Comey told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that phone and Internet surveillance are useful tools for counterintelligence. Comey said the secret court that judges surveillance requests is anything but a rubber stamp. Both Republicans and Democrats praised Comey for the time he and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft got President George W. Bush to back off a warrantless surveillance program. But he promised that, if confirmed, he would work with lawmakers to improve surveillance laws. (Federal News Radio)
  • House Veterans Affairs Committee members from both sides of the aisle say they’re fed up with the agency they oversee. They’re going public with their frustration over what they say are VA officials’ refusal to comply with 95 requests for information. The lawmakers are creating a special committee webpage, Trials in Transparency. A VA spokeswoman said the department has prepared for 1,800 briefings and more than 67,000 inquiries from Congress since 2011. She said the VA is committed to appropriate oversight. (Federal News Radio)
  • House lawmakers are fixing to hit the IRS where it hurts. A spending plan introduced by the House Appropriations Committee would cut the agency’s budget by 24 percent. The bill would give the IRS $9 billion in 2014, versus $13 billion requested by the Obama administration. But the House goes further. It would withhold 10 percent of IRS funding until the agency carried out the most recent inspector general recommendations. Those concerned how the agency mistreated conservative groups applying for tax exempt status. A subcommittee marks up the proposal today. (Federal News Radio)
  • Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel is taking on the National Treasury Employees Union head on. Citing budget cuts, Werfel says he’s working to cancel bonuses for union employees. The IRS is already canceling this year’s bonuses for managers and non-union employees. The agency was scheduled to pay out $98 million in bonuses, two-thirds of it for NTEU members. But that was before sequestration. Union officials say the IRS is legally obligated to follow through on the bonuses. Its bargaining agreement calls on the IRS to set aside a percentage if union salaries to cover them. (Federal News Radio)
  • Two data security firms are paying more than $1 million to settle claims that they failed to destroy sensitive government documents according to federal standards. The Justice Department says Iron Mountain and Shred-It won contracts to shred government papers. But they did not cut them to the size required by the General Services Administration. A claim against a third firm, Cintas, is pending. The owner of a Pennsylvania paper shredding company brought the lawsuit under the False Claims Act. (Justice Department)
  • Overtime costs are eating up more and more of the Postal Service’s budget, reaching nearly 8 percent in fiscal 2012. In a new report, the inspector general lays out a troubling picture even as he acknowledges the total overtime cost of $3.5 billion is down from past years. The agency is cutting back on staff and regular work hours in an effort to match the lower demand for services. Employees working overtime are filling in the gaps. Seven mail handlers received more than $65,000 last year in overtime more than doubling their salaries. (USPSOIG)
  • If the IRS is any guide, the new NSTIC initiative could save agencies big bucks. The National Institute of Standards and Technology says the IRS could save $305 million a year by adopting an identity-management system that works with NSTIC . That’s short for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, a NIST-led initiative to create a circle of trust on the Internet. NIST commissioned a study with the IRS to look at how an NSTIC-aligned system would compare with the agency’s own proprietary system. (NSTIC Notes)
  • The House Homeland Security Committee again is looking at the federal response to the Boston Marathon bombings. Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) says it is examining breakdowns in information sharing and a general lack of follow-through in other terror plots. It will hear from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other outside experts during an open session that begins at 9 a.m. Homeland Security Deputy Counterterrorism Advisor John Cohen and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen are on a second panel. The committee warns that it will most likely close the hearing so Cohen and Olsen can discuss classified matters. (House)

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