Early Briefing: Celebrating A Triple A

* Unfurling 40-foot-long banners from a high balcony of the County Administration Building and accompanied by a high school marching band, Prince George's officials announced Tuesday that the county has been awarded a AAA rating by a Wall Street bond house, an achievement they described as historic for a county they say is often not given the respect it deserves.

Nationwide, 48 counties have been awarded the top ranking from Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, a grade that means the county will be able to borrow money at a lower interest rate. Locally, Prince George's joins three counties in Maryland and three in Virginia to receive the ranking, despite the tightening economy.

The Wall Street firm cited the county's ability to withstand economic downturns, its history of budget surpluses and its "substantial and continually diversifying local economic base" in granting the upgrade from its second-highest AA-plus ranking

*Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland system, George Mason University, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University announced a partnership aimed at helping the Washington area turn the research and innovations of its scientists and scholars into patents, products and businesses.

Calling the partnership the Chesapeake Crescent Innovation Alliance, the universities hope to reinvigorate the region's technology sector by sharing information on their research with one another and with businesses and investors.

*Lockheed Martin failed to follow military guidelines to track and manage costs on major weapons programs, according to an internal Pentagon document released Tuesday by a government watchdog group.

The Bethesda company did not comply with 19 out of 32 guidelines, which led to a lack of controls on the cost and schedule of multibillion-dollar programs including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the F-22 and F-16 fighter jets, the Defense Contract Management Agency said in a November 2007 report made public by the Project on Government Oversight.

John Young, the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, said Tuesday in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that a corrective plan had been worked out between the Pentagon and Lockheed since the DCMA completed its report last fall. Young said that the Pentagon would withhold $10 million in payments from Lockheed if it missed any of 12 milestones established in the plan and that the DCMA was also meeting with Lockheed every two weeks to review its progress.

Tom Jurkowsky, a Lockheed Martin spokesman, said the company had "achieved three milestones that are part of the plan," and is working to train more of its managers and subcontractors on the guidelines.

*The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center wants Metro to expand its bus service to National Harbor to accommodate employees who say they are having trouble getting home from work because of limited transportation. There is one bus route that runs to National Harbor. I

Susan Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Public Works and Transportation, said a decision to expand hours would be made jointly by the county, Metro and the state Department of Transportation. Ultimately, she said, the state would be responsible for funding.

By Terri Rupar  |  June 4, 2008; 5:00 AM ET  | Category:  Morning Brief
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