Wednesday Morning Federal Newscast - October 6th

Wednesday - 10/6/2010, 8:15am 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.

  • Last week, the Office of Personnel Management announced plans for a new database to help control costs of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Now come the howls from privacy advocates. NextGov reports the Patient Privacy Rights group says OPM doesn't provide any details about how patient data will be stored or if indentifying information about patients will be removed.

  • The Supreme Court heard the case of scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab who claimed government background checks violated their privacy. The New York Times reports, the tone of questions posed by the Justices makes it appear likely the scientists will lose their case. It all hinges on a 2005 anti-terrorism initiative requiring federal contractors to use detailed background checks. At issue is the scope of a 1977 ruling that said there is a constitutional right to informational privacy.

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking some new criticism of an effort to automate the processing of education benefits for veterans under the post-9/11 G-I Bill. The inspector general at VA says the program lacks effective cost and performance controls. FCW reports that among the IG's recommendations is one that VA set up an independent milestone review process to support decision making for the project. VA's IT office says it agrees with the findings and recommendations.

  • The White House gears up to release final guidelines to help agencies inventory greenhouse gas emissions. In July, the Council on Environmental Quality released a draft with details on reporting requirements and methods for calculating emissions. GovExec reports that White House officials are still evaluating comments. All federal agencies must inventory their emissions by January 31st of 2011.

  • The Interior Department has approved the first two solar projects on federal land. The two projects are in California's Imperial Valley and Chevron Lucerne Valley. Interior has several more projects under review, and says the solar farms will eventually provide thousands of clean energy jobs. Eventually they will provide electricity for thousands of homes. But both require long transmission lines that will cross animal habitats. Critics have said the administration has been taking too long to approve loan guarantees for the pending solar projects.

  • Recovery.gov promised transparency on how the government spends every dollar of stimulus money. But there's $162 million that the website doesn't disclose. The Office of Management and Budget says that 352 contracts, grants and loans aren't included, because the groups that received that money haven't reported it.The White House has ordered a crackdown, which could include investigations for fraud and suspension from all future federal contracts. But enforcement is spotty and it isn't clear if its happening. A USA TODAY review of debarment actions finds only one non-reporting recipient suspended.

  • GTSI says that its suspension from consideration for new government contracts is likely going to impact the company's operations, financial condition, and ability to remain a going concern. The Washington Business Journal reports that GTSI has vowed to fight the Small Business Administration suspension. SBA accuses GTSI of improperly receiving contracts that were intended for small businesses. But now the company says that it can't predict the results of the suspension and related investigation, which could lead to administrative, civil or criminal liabilities.

  • The government is opening a new contracting program for small companies owned by women. The Small Business Administration has filed a final rule to create a set-aside program for those firms. The rule centers on 83 industries. And participants will be eligible for set-asides of less than $5 million for manufacturing contracts and less than $3 million for all others. GovExec reports the rule will appear in today's federal register. SBA will implement the program with 120 days.

  • Remember the national take-back day for prescription drugs last month? The final tally is in. The Drug Enforcement Administration collected 121 tons of unused drugs from medicine cabinets through the country. And not just medicine cabinets. One man dragged a kitchen drawer full of unused drugs to a collection site. An Illinois woman brought subscriptions she's been saving for 50 years. DEA staged the collection to curb rising abuse of prescription drugs, which often fall into criminal hands. Acting DEA administrator Michele Leonhart called Take-Back day a stunning success.