Wednesday morning federal headlines - Nov. 9, 2011

Wednesday - 11/9/2011, 8:40am EST

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.

  • FBI's headquarters needs some work. The Government Accountability Office says the Hoover Building and the annexes are old. They just don't support the FBI's security, space and building condition requirements. But there's no money. The General Services Administration says, for now, they can only help cover the immediate health and safety issues. The FBI and GSA have considered three options — Modernize the Hoover Building, tear it down and start over, or move out and buy a new place somewhere else. The FBI and GSA plan to discuss the FBI's facility needs with the Office of Management and Budget. GAO says that GSA and the FBI need to present a business case, including current, comparable cost estimates, to support the choice of a preferred alternative and financing strategy. (GAO.gov)

  • Mortgage giant Fannie Mae wants another $7.8 billion to cover its losses in the July-September quarter, the Associated Press reported. Low mortgage rates reduced profits and declining home prices caused more defaults on loans it had guaranteed. Fannie has received more than $112 billion so far from the Treasury Department. That's the most expensive bailout of a single company. Last week, Freddie Mac requested $6 billion in extra aid. The Obama administration unveiled a plan earlier this year to slowly dissolve the two mortgage giants. The goal is to shrink the government's role in the mortgage system. It would also probably make home loans more expensive. (Associated Press)

  • Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calls for a new investigation into Air Force mortuary practices. Three officials were disciplined but not fired for mismanagement of remains of warfighters killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mortuary lost body parts that were supposed to be returned to families for burial. Three whistleblowers triggered a year-long internal investigation. The inspector general found no laws were broken, but the Office of Special Counsel disagrees. OSC says the Air Force failed to take responsibility for the 14 instances of lost remains. (Federal News Radio)

  • A serious radiation scare for more than a dozen workers at Idaho National Lab, the Associated Press reported. Seventeen people are undergoing full-body scans and other treatments after they were potentially exposed to low-level plutonium radiation. The employees were cleaning inside a reactor Tuesday afternoon when a container holding plutonium was opened. Exposure can damage organs and be deadly in certain amounts. Investigators are at the site trying to determine what went wrong. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Defense Department may have launched the last of its own communications satellites. Military leaders agree they'll need more satellite bandwidth in coming years. Their question is how to acquire it. Gil Klinger is the deputy DOD secretary for space and intelligence. He says the way the Pentagon now acquires satellite communications is too slow and expensive. He tells a sat-comm industry conference, the military is likely to just buy the bandwidth it needs from commercial satellite operators. (Federal News Radio)

  • NASA has set a test launch date for its new Orion space craft. It plans an unmanned test in early 2014. NextGov reports, NASA placed a small announcement on the Federal Business Opportunities web site. Tests will cover descent and landing functions, and see if the heat shield, rocket engines and guidance systems all work. The Orion is supposed to eventually take people to the moon and possibly Mars or an asteroid. NASA awarded an $8 billion contract to Lockheed to develop Orion. A NASA spokesman tells NextGov, the agency plans manned tests in 2017. (NextGov.com)

  • Democrats and Republicans on the special deficit reduction committee appear no closer to resolving their differences, the Associate Press reported. This came after yesterday's Republican proposal to allow some tax increases. The proposal was quickly dismissed by Democratic members. The GOP plan would have cut tax rates but ended some deductions, including mortgage interest. Democrats say it would have raised middle class taxes but lowered rates for the wealthy. The committee has until just before Thanksgiving to agree on a plan to present to the rest of Congress. (Federal News Radio)

  • A State Department nominee agrees to make an American jailed in Cuba a top priority, the Baltimore Sun reported. Roberta Jacobson appears at a confirmation hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She's under consideration for Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Questioned by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jacobson promised to press the case of Alan Gross, a USAID contract worker. The Castro regime sentenced Gross of Potomac to 15 years in prison for distributing satellite phones in Cuba. (Baltimore Sun)