Thursday federal headlines – September 17, 2015

In today's news, federal employees can begin signing up for the self-plus one option in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program when the annual open season...

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on the Federal Drive and In Depth radio shows. Our headlines are updated twice per day — once in the morning and once in the afternoon — with the latest news affecting federal employees and contractors.

  • Federal employees can begin signing up for the self-plus one option in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program when the annual open season starts Nov. 9. The Office of Personnel Management is finalizing the rule today and creating this new benefit option for employees and retirees starting in 2016. OPM estimated that federal employees should expect to pay a little less under the self-plus-one option versus the cost of self and family coverage. The agency estimated in its fiscal 2014 budget justification that the self-plus-one option would cost about 94 percent of the other coverage options. (Federal News Radio)
  • House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) are pushing for a short-term continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. Van Hollen said there’s no word yet from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about bipartisan budget negotiations. A new proposal from the Republican Study Committee has them both worried. It packages the 12 House appropriations bills and defunds Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act and President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. Only six of those appropriations bills have cleared the full House. The rest passed in their committees. The Republican Study Committee includes 172 House Republicans. (Federal News Radio)
  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter isn’t planning for sequestration as he works with the military services for the 2017 budget planning cycle. Carter said the Air Force’s fiscal 2017 budget includes investments in cyber, space and nuclear deterrence. The announcement signaled to Congress that the Defense Department isn’t expecting a possible trigger of sequestration that year. Carter also said the Air Force will invest in guided munitions, intelligence and surveillance. Congress is currently still trying to come to a deal to avoid sequestration for fiscal 2016. (Federal News Radio)
  • Four senators have repeated their call for President Barack Obama to name a permanent inspector general at the Veterans Affairs Department. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said it’s been more than 600 days since VA has had a permanent IG. They said having a permanent IG position is more important at VA than ever, given the department’s challenges. The group said the IG is necessary to not only establish proper oversight and accountability at VA, but also to start rebuilding confidence citizens have in the department. This was the lawmakers’ second letter in three months asking for President Barack Obama to nominate an IG for VA. (Sen. John McCain)
  • Democrats are accusing Senate Republicans of holding up President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development just when the organization needs a permanent leader the most. A Senate panel approved Gayle Smith’s nomination in July. It hasn’t moved since then. But with swells of migrants flooding Europe from war-torn countries, Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid (R-Nev.) said the Senate should act now. He accused Republicans of obstruction. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a presidential candidate, warned he would hold up State Department nominees because of the administration’s deal with Iran on nuclear weapons. (Federal News Radio)
  • A Senate bill would ensure federal employees furloughed by a government shutdown would get back pay. Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-Md.) bill would guarantee back pay once the government resumed operations. In past shutdowns, Congress has dealt with back pay only after a shutdown is over. Federal law forbids employees from being paid during lapses in funding. (GovTrack)
  • The CIA is planning to launch its new Directorate of Digital Innovation and 10 new counterterrorism centers on Oct. 1. Officials said the digital innovation directorate will inject digital tools into all of the other CIA missions. CIA Director John Brennan said the new organization also will help accelerate the integration of the agency’s cyber capabilities. Brennan announced this reorganization in March to increase the CIA’s emphasis on analysis.

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