Thursday federal headlines – July 18, 2013

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • House Republicans and Democrats are closing in on a plan to save the financially struggling Postal Service. At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing yesterday, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) took a step toward compromise. He agreed to incorporate proposals from ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) into his draft plan. Issa says postal reform will only happen through bipartisan cooperation. (Federal News Radio)
  • Today could be the big day for Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez. The Senate appears ready to confirm him by a slight margin and most likely along party lines. Six Republicans sided with Democrats yesterday in voting to end a filibuster against Perez. Other Republicans say the civil rights lawyer is too liberal. Some are opposing Perez because of his refusal to show a House committee personal emails related to a whistleblower case. Perez was Maryland’s labor secretary before rejoining the Justice Department. He had served there during the first Bush and Clinton administrations. (Associated Press)
  • The House Appropriations Committee approved a 2014 agency spending bill with deep cuts for several agencies. The Financial Services and General Government bill covers Treasury, the General Services Administration, the Small Business Administration and the White House, plus several independent agencies. At $17 billion, it’s $4.3 billion below 2013 levels and $3 billion less after sequestration. It would cut the IRS budget by 24 percent. Kentucky Republican Hal Rogers chairs the committee. He says the bill would right-size the agencies it covers. (House Appropriations Committee)
  • The head of the General Services Administration wasted no time in lambasting the House Appropriations Committee’s vision for his agency. Dan Tangherlini says the committee’s proposed 2014 cuts are so deep that the government might default on rents for federal offices. It would also cancel what Tangherlini says are urgently-needed renovations to properties the government owns. In a blog post, Tangherlini worries that failure to pay rents would drive up leasing costs across the government. He wasn’t alone in blasting the bill. Colleen Kelly, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, says cuts to the IRS would devastate the agency by undercutting its ability to bring in revenue. (General Services Administration)
  • A new rule requires prime contractors to pay their subs on time or tell the government why they didn’t. It would also make them justify why they drop a small business subcontractor who was part of an original bid. The Small Business Administration published the final rule in compliance with the 2010 Small Business Jobs Act. The rule also requires contracting officers to monitor what is going on with small businesses working on federal projects as subs. (Federal News Radio)
  • It’s like buying a car without test-driving it. That’s what the Pentagon did when it purchased a mobile-device management system last month. Officials did not require the winning bidder to prove the system would work, Nextgov reported. The Defense Department says just because it didn’t require proof of performance doesn’t mean that it didn’t take it into account. The deal, worth up to $16 million, lets a team led by DMI build a system to support up to 300,000 smartphones and tablets. It promises to let servicemembers worldwide connect securely to department networks.(Nextgov)
  • The Affordable Care Act creates some complicated electronic plumbing. Members of Congress are worried about the security of data flowing through it. But the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says individuals’ health information will be safe. Marilyn Tavenner says the digital hub connecting state marketplaces and federal databases transmits information but won’t store it. When applicants seek health insurance at a marketplace, the information they submit is compared to IRS and Social Security information. Tavenner tells a House panel, the application process won’t ask for personal health information. (Federal News Radio)
  • Former President Bill Clinton now has a permanent address on Pennsylvania Avenue just a few blocks from his old abode. The EPA formally renamed its headquarters at 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. after the former president. California Senator Barbara Boxer says it’s a strong building, and Bill Clinton was a very strong president. She sponsored the legislation authorizing the name change. During the Clinton era, the EPA administrator became a Cabinet-level officer. (Associated Press)
  • House lawmakers are vowing to stop a National Security Agency program that tracks Americans’ phone records, unless the executive branch makes some changes. The House Judiciary Committee showed none of the support that members of intelligence committees had given the spy agency in earlier hearings. Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner told NSA and Justice Department officials, unless they realized they had a problem, Congress would not renew the phone records program. He says the agencies have misinterpreted provisions of the Patriot Act that let the government collect data related to national security investigations. (Associated Press)
  • Government auditors are blaming Defense leaders for hampering their department’s efforts to find and identify remains of missing service members. The Government Accountability Office says the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and Pacific Command have yet to resolve longstanding disagreements.The result is a fractured system and bureaucratic infighting. Several DoD components share responsibility. About 83,000 US servicemembers are missing from past conflicts going back to World War II. The Defense Department is striving to identify 200 of them a year, but it is able to complete just 72 on average. (Government Accountability Office)
  • It’s business as usual at Joint Base Andrews today. The base resumed normal operations last night after the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said it could repair a failing pipe with no disruption in service to customers. The base had planned to be without its major source of water for days. It had asked residents and employees to conserve water…telling them not to put paper in their toilets. Now it says even the pool should be open later today. (Joint Base Andrews)
  • The Air Force and Navy both encountered trouble with unmanned aircraft this week. A drone crashed and exploded on the runway of Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, causing nearby roads to close, according to The Wall Street Journal. The drone was a converted F4 fighter used for target practice. It was designed to be reused. Defense News reports, the Navy had to abort the carrier landing of an X47B unmanned jet. That was after two successful landings on the deck of the USS George Washington. On the third attempt, the wedge-shaped plane had computer troubles. So Navy and Northrop Grumman officials diverted it to Wallops Island, Virginia. (The Wall Street Journal)