Tuesday morning federal headlines - Oct. 18

Tuesday - 10/18/2011, 8:03am 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.

  • After years of continuous growth, intelligence community budgets are headed down. James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, says he's submitted plans for a 10-year reduction. He says cuts will amount to double digits of billions of dollars. Efficiencies in technology usage will account for a big chunk of the reductions. Clapper says he'll also consider reducing the number of field offices around the world. The exact intelligence budget is secret, but analysts estimate it to be around $85 billion. (Federal News Radio)

  • The information technology industry is bracing for nearly flat federal IT budgets. A new forecast from the trade group Tech America says civilian agency spending will only grow 2 percent between now and 2017. IT spending by defense agencies will grow a mere 0.2 percent in the same period. Total IT spending this year stands at about $85 billion. TechAmerica says only four departments will boost spending on technology: Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Justice and Treasury. Agencies are finding efficiencies in cloud computing and in pushing harder on contractors. (Federal News Radio)

  • Only half of federal CIOs report to the head of their department or agency, as required by law. A new survey by the Government Accountability Office finds that even so CIOs feel they have adequate access to their agency heads. The survey also finds, 14 of the 30 have at least one other job besides CIO; a few even wear three hats. GAO finds that the scope of CIO responsibility varies widely, depending on the agency. (Federal News Radio)

  • The General Services Administration has hit a stumbling block in its pursuit of email-as-a-service. The Government Accountability Office upheld the protests of two email vendors against GSA. At issue are requirements in GSA's $2.5 billion email-as-a-service request. GAO agreed that its specifications for Internet routing were ambiguous and contradictory. It also upheld the complaint that limiting off shore data centers to certain countries was unfair. Federal Acquisition Service commissioner Steve Kempf told Federal News Radio GSA is reviewing GAO's recommendations to clarify language on those two points. GSA has 60 days to inform implement the recommendations. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Transportation Department has levied a $60,000 fine against Orbitz, the online travel site. DOT says Orbitz violated federal aviation laws and regulations by posting airline fares minus fees and taxes. That's deceptive, DOT says. The violations occurred earlier this year. The information was available, but consumers had to click through a couple of pages and look for fine print. A new rule will require taxes and fees to be included in every advertised fare, regardless of medium, beginning in January 2012. (Transportation Department)

  • Government charge card users could soon be facing stricter rules, The Washington Post reports. A House committee has unanimously approved the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act, and it now waits for a full House vote. The Senate has already passed its version of the bill. The bill would require agencies to review cardholder records and provide regular training for cardholders and their managers. It asks agencies to create policies on the number of cards to be issued, maximum credit limits and who is eligible to use them. The bill also requires agencies to pay banks directly when reimbursing employees for travel card purchases to avoid hefty interest charges. (The Washington Post)

  • The future of the Yucca Mountain Project in Nevada remains uncertain, and the Government Accountability Office is trying to find alternative uses for the site. The location and geographic makeup of the land holds some promise, and GAO investigators say there are dozens of proposed alternative uses. The problem: There is no consensus, control of the site is divided among three federal agencies and no matter what is decided, it will be very expensive. (GAO)

  • British billionaire Richard Branson rappelled from a balcony, shook up a big bottle of champagne and took a swig while christening the world's first built-from-scratch commercial spaceport. Virgin Galactic will stage its commercial space tourism venture from Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, the Associated Press reports.The $209 million, taxpayer-financed spaceport will be a launch station for people and payloads on the rocket ships being developed for Virgin Galactic. Commercial service will start up after the company gets a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. NASA has already signed a $4.5 million contract with the company for up to three chartered research flights. (AP)