Wednesday Morning Federal Newscast - January 5th

Wednesday - 1/5/2011, 8:06am 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.

  • Thirty five different pieces of legislation were signed into law on Tuesday, just one day before Congress returns from the Christmas recess. President Obama signed legislation ranging from renaming regional post offices to modernizing the Food and Drug Administration.

    • The President signed the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 into law which requires agencies to set measurable performance goals and provide regular updates to Congress and the public. It also requires agencies to improve coordination to avoid redundancy, and assign senior officials to serve as chief operating officers and performance improvement officers. Critics say the legislation is a good start, but that it will be hard to gauge performance under a continuing resolution, and that efficiency could suffer under a two-year pay freeze.

    • The FDA Modernization Act was signed into law on Tuesday. President Obama signed the $1.4 billion overhaul of the nation's food safety system. It emphasizes prevention to help stop deadly outbreaks of foodborne illness before they occur, instead of reacting after consumers become ill. It calls for increasing government inspections at food processing facilities and, for the first time, gives the Food and Drug Administration the power to order the recall of unsafe foods. But even with the president's signature, it isn't a done deal. Critics say it's too expensive. Some lawmakers are threatening to withhold funding.

    • The federal government has always considered itself exempt from paying stormwater drainage fees to local governments. President Obama has signed a bill to change that. The new law holds the federal government responsible for paying local fees, including those assessed by the DC Department of the Environment. Agencies maintain that the bill is a tax, and that they're exempt. But this legislation removes any ambiguity, prevents the feds from considering the bill a tax, and requires agencies to pay their share.

  • Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Republicans will offer one bill a week to cut federal spending. Cantor says his party will also lay out a plan in coming weeks to slash $100 billion dollars in spending this year, and they're even considering cuts to the defense budget. The 112th Congress, with its new Republican House majority, convenes today.

  • 2011 is bound to be the year of congressional hearings. Republican Darrell Issa is the incoming chair of the House Oversight Committee. Federal Times reports his "Initial Oversight Investigations Lineup" is his most detailed indication of where and how he intends to use Congress' subpoena power. Look for hearings to include:
    • The impact of government regulations on job creation.
    • The role of government-sponsored mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the housing crisis.
    • The failure of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to agree on a root cause of the financial meltdown.
    • Corruption in Afghanistan.
    • How to combat the release of classified information via the website WikiLeaks.
    • The Food and Drug Administration, which Issa calls "a broken bureaucracy."
    The agenda is for the first three months of the year.

  • The Food and Drug Administration's second in command is leaving after 21 months. Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein will become the Secretary for Health and Hygiene in Maryland. The announcement came from the governor's office. Sharfstein has been a strong advocate for greater drug safety. He pushed for a review of a diabetes drug that lead to curbs on how it is used. Sharfstein's departure comes just before the FDA releases new guidelines for how it approves medical devices.

  • They may not be making Air Force tankers yet, but Boeing will help the Army upgrade some of its helicopters. The company has received a pair of contracts worth nearly $100 million to help overhaul weapons systems for Apache and Chinook helicopters. Meanwhile, rival EADS will build new light utility helicopters for the Army. The $52 million contract also covers airborne radio communication systems and some engine components. Both companies are engaged in a heated battle for a contract to build new mid-air refueling tankers for the Air Force. That award could be worth more than $40 billion.

  • The Navy and Marine Corps had a banner year on Facebook in 2010. At least, that's what some Facebook users say. The social networking site asked a preselected group of users to weigh in on the best use of Facebook by members of Congress, political campaigns and government. The company says the Navy's Facebook pages won acclaim because of interactive questions, photo contests and regular responses to wall comments. The Marine Corps stood out for having a large number of fans -- nearly a million followers and more than any other military branch. The E-P-A, Veterens Affairs and Disability.gov also made the list.