Friday Morning Federal Newscast - August 13

Friday - 8/13/2010, 8:13am 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.

  • If you have a loved-one in the military serving overseas, you'll soon be able to send them cigarettes. The Postal Service is changing a policy to let military families send tobacco products through priority mail. Sending tobacco via first class mail was banned, when a new law took effect in June. The law was intended to stop cigarette trafficking and to make it harder for kids to get tobacco. But the Washington Post reports it also affected some military friends and families with loved-ones serving overseas. That was an unintended consequence. The new Postal Service rule takes effect on August 27th.

  • The Senate passes a bill that would send another 1,500 federal agents to the Mexican border. Customs and Border Protection would get to hire the lion's share of new agents -- more than 1,000. The bill also provides money for unmanned drones to patrol the border. The $600 million measure would be paid for with raised work-visa fees on foreign companies doing work in the U-S. The president plans to sign it today

  • Google defended its agreement with Verizon Communications over the handling of wireless Internet traffic. The plan is designed to prevent wireless networks from proposed federal regulations. In a blog post, Google Counsel Richard Whitt says the agreement protects consumers. Members of Congress, including Silicon Valley representative Anna Eshoo, criticized the Google-Verizon agreement, saying so-called net neutrality should also apply to wireless data. That reported by the Wall Street Journal.

  • A watchdog for the Defense Department says one Pentagon agency may be letting problems with contractor performance slide under the radar. The DOD inspector general says the Defense Contract Management Agency didn't give the Defense Contract AUDIT Agency enough time to review a contractor's compliance with Earned Value Management guidelines. And he says it happened twice. Earned Value Management provides early warnings of possible performance problems contracts.

  • Open government is finding its way across the Potomac. Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn says releasing the names of senior mentors would be a step toward transparency. Writing in an Op-Ed in today's USA Today, Lynn said releasing the names and roles of retired generals and admirals being paid to advisors to the Pentagon would help to address concerns about how the program is administered. In April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered that mentors' pay be capped at $179,000 a year and that they be hired as government employees subject to conflict-of-interest rules.

  • The head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is disputing comments by some politicians that the government isn't doing enough to stop illegal immigration. ICE Director John Morton says there have been more deportations from the U.S. than ever before. He says his agency removed a record 380,000 illegal immigrants in the last fiscal year, and about a third of them were convicted criminals.

  • An intergovernmental aircraft coordination effort for the Gulf oil spill has disbanded, now that the underwater gusher has been sealed off. NextGov reports the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and the Air Force together managed what it describes as a complex aerial ballet of 23,000 flying missions since the April gusher. The Deepwater Aviation Command was directed by Coast Board Captain James Sommer. The FAA controlled the flights, but mission coordination went through the the Air Force's 601st Air and Space Operations Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, near Panama City, Florida.

  • One third of the 1,200 National Guard troops being deployed to the Mexican border are there already, or training to go soon, a Guard spokesman tells Federal Times. Jack Harrison says that, unlike previous Guard deployments to the border, this time the troops will come from the states where they will be stationed. And, they are all volunteers for the mission. So far, troops are working the border in California, New Mexico and Texas. No additional National Guard troops have yet deployed to the Arizona border

  • As the government leads the way in green buildings, it turns out there's a bonus for federal workers: they feel better. A study published on the American Journal of Public Health's website finds that after moving in LEED-certified buildings, employees said they thought they called out sick less and were more productive. The study's authors figured out that employees could each work about 39 more hours a year in the new buildings because of different working conditions such as better light, air quality and ventilation.