Thursday Morning Federal Newscast - May 20th

Thursday - 5/20/2010, 8:50am 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 users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The Senate approves a measure that would give many of OPM's recently-announced hiring reforms the force of law. That includes eliminating essays about knowledge, skills and abilities on job applications. It also aims to do away with jargon in hiring announcements. The bill was passed under unanimous consent, and now heads to the House. That's where lawmakers grilled OPM leaders on Hiring reform, Wednesday.

  • The Defense Department has been doing some serious hiring. The Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation and has hired more than 3,000 employees since the end of March to improve its purchasing processes, John Roth, deputy comptroller for programs and budgets, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's national security subcommittee. reports the new hires are the first step in reducing contractors from 39 percent to 26 percent of the department's work force. Officials are requesting an additional $218 million in the fiscal 2011 budget to expand the reform efforts.

  • The latest assessment of how the Pentagon buys weapons shows that the Defense Department is saving money, but the improvements aren't coming fast enough to avoid having to make cuts somewhere else. The Government Accountability Office says that the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 has helped the Pentagon deliver weapons on time and at the estimated cost. GAO researchers say more could be done, like reducing the number and size of weapon system programs. They also say it'll take more work to make these changes permanent.

  • The House Armed Services Committee Wednesday added $112 million back into the Army's 2011 budget, after cutting it by nearly a billion. The restored money is marked for a small, unmanned aerial vehicle, a ground robot, and for research and development. The three items are a sliver of the Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team program, for which the administration has requested $2.3 billion. A third of that request was cut by the committee. The restored funds were requested by Texas representatives Silvestre Reyes, whose district includes Fort Bliss, where the systems are developed and tested, according to GovExec.

  • It is no secret that the Postal Service has to come up with a new business strategy to ensure its financial stability and ultimately, survival. Postmaster General John Potter says they've realigned some services to help with that. The Expedited Shipping and Ground Shipping groups have merged into one Shipping Services Group. Meanwhile, Potter named Jim Cochrane as vice president of Product Visibility and Operational Performance. It will be his job to lead the development of technology to help scan and track packages through the postal system. Potter said the new internal structures will result in more competitive package products and scanning visibility information for customers.

  • The Obama administration is moving to abolish the beleaguered agency that oversees offshore drilling and replace it with three separate entities. The plan by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would eliminate the Minerals Management Service and replace it with two bureaus and a revenue collection office. The name Minerals Management Service would no longer exist.

  • Prominent oceanographers are criticizing federal environmental officials for their response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. According to the New York Times, the scientists say the government is not conducting adequate testing to determine the amount of oil escaping nor its underwater environmental impact. Oceanographer Sylvia Earle points to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco tells lawmakers, the agency is moving as fast as it can with limited resources. The government has deployed more than one thousand vessels to try and contain the spill.

  • The CDC "knowingly used flawed data" to claim that high lead levels in the District's drinking water did not pose a health risk to the public. The Washington Post reports Congressional investigators determined the agency has not publicized more thorough internal research showing that the problem harmed children across the city and continues to endanger thousands of D.C. residents.

  • How much do you know about medicine that never made it to market? The Food and Drug Administration's Transparency Task Force is recommending that agency begin posting rejection letters to drug and medical device makers online. The 67-page report contains 21 recommendations for for improving transparency. Critics have charged the FDA is too slow to disclose drug and food safety issues. The Transparency Task Force will take comments on its report for 60 days, and then submit a list of changes for implementation.