Wednesday Morning Federal Newscast - May 19th

Wednesday - 5/19/2010, 8:34am EDT

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.

  • Congress has scheduled a hearing on federal hiring reform plans today. It will be the first hearing on hiring reforms since President Obama ordered the overhaul last week. Cutting back the time it takes to hire feds is a high priority, but union officials also want to make sure that hiring preferences are still kept in consideration. The Washington Post reports while most people agree with the goal of hiring reform, not everyone agrees on how to achieve it. Look for arguments in today's hearing that the reforms will harm the veterans hiring preference. And federal employee unions don't like replacing the so-called "rule of three" with "category hiring."

  • Democratic leaders in the Senate consider adding the budget blueprint to a $59 billion dollar emergency spending package winding through Congress. The blueprint would set the discretionary spending level for fiscal 2011. Congress Daily reports it would allow appropriators to begin work on annual spending bills needed to fund federal programs after this budget year ends in September. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad says time appears to running out to pass a stand-alone, five-year budget resolution in both chambers of Congress.

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has awarded a $73 million contract to overhaul its web site to provide more self-service and information. NextGov reports CGI Federal got the job of improving Medicare.gov, MyMedicare.gov, and CMS.HHS.GOV. The sites potentially serve 44 million beneficiaries and their health care providers.

  • The Department of Energy launched its "Energy Island" in Second Life back in February. Now comes word that Energy is looking to hire a new CIO, and they're accepting applications on the virtual 3D world.

  • A group of big technology companies favors the idea of letting the Patent and Trademark Office set its own fees to fund itself, but they oppose the Senate version of patent overhaul, according to NextGov. The House takes up its version today. The Coalition for Patent Fairness cites a backlog of 750,000 applications as evidence the PTO needs more resources. Opposition to the Senate bill centers on missing language that would prevent diversion of patent application fees to other purposes.

  • A total of 14 intelligence failures enabled would-be airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab board a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas. That's according a Senate Intelligence Committee report released yesterday. The committee called information-sharing among intelligence agencies inadequate, and said no single agency sees itself as responsible for tracking terrorism threats. The committee said the National Counterterrorism Center should be the responsible agency.

  • A special team of investigators is already interrogating high-value suspects in the U.S. and overseas. White House terrorism adviser John Brennan tells a foreign policy forum that the so-called high-value detainee interrogation group, or the HIG, has been at work for the past few months. The elite team of investigators from the FBI, CIA and Defense Department was set up to question terror suspects as soon as possible after an arrest. The unit as it exists now is run by the FBI and headed by an FBI employee with two deputies - one from the CIA and one from the Defense Department. Its three regional teams - their locations have not been disclosed - will be staffed by a full-time team of experts, including everything from linguists to terrorist analysts to professional interrogators.

  • How important is that coffee when you're doing shift work? The New York Times reports that caffeine could mean the difference between making a critical mistake on the job - and getting through the shift with no worries. A study published in "The Cochrane Library" finds that a cup of coffee can help, even if prescription meds, melatonin and light therapy all fail. Thirteen separate studies were combined and scientists found caffeine works better than either a placebo or a nap to minimize mistakes. Caffeine also helped improve attention span, memory, reasoning and other mental skills in nighttime workers.

More news links

Federal credit card used to buy $15,000 in iPods, gadgets (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Top US security officials meet in Pakistan