Thursday federal headlines – December 12, 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.

  • Lawmakers representing large numbers of federal employees are falling in with the bipartisan budget deal for 2014. That’s in spite of the fact that the bill would require new federal hires to pay more of their salaries towards their pensions than existing employees. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) says the bill is preferable to the sequestration it partially replaces. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) agrees, as does Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). But Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) says the bill continues a trend of scapegoating federal employees. (Federal News Radio)
  • Working-age military retirees would see fewer dollars in their federal pensions, and the Pentagon would get some long-sought stability in spending under Congress’ budget deal. The agreement would reverse a $20 billion financial hit the Pentagon faces next month. Defense spending in the current 2014 fiscal year would be capped at $520 billion, up from $498 billion. In fiscal 2015, the amount would be capped at $521 billion, up from $512 billion. Pentagon spending would be about the same in 2014 as in the 2013 fiscal year. The numbers weren’t exactly what they wanted, but defense leaders and members of Congress’ military panels welcomed the certainty promised in the deal. A House vote is likely today. (Associated Press)
  • The White House’s troubles with could carry over into next year. If enrollment issues continue, Americans who want and need coverage by Jan. 1 may not be able to get it. They must sign up by Dec. 23 to have coverage by New Year’s. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says as of Nov. 30, enrollments have tripled, but that figure still falls far short of goals. The administration hopes to sign up 7 million people by next March when enrollment ends. Recent numbers show enrollment around 365,000. Sebelius says almost 2 million people appear to be waiting just offstage to sign up. They’ve been found eligible to enroll but haven’t yet picked a plan. (Associated Press)
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa charges Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with criminal obstruction. Issa’s committee is investigating the implementation of the Affordable Care Act through The obstruction charge refers to a letter the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent to contractor Creative Computing Solutions, Inc. The letter told the company not to turn over any documents to Congressional investigators. It also said the department would respond to Congressional requests on the contractor’s behalf. An HHS spokesperson tells NextGov the department is attempting to comply with Issa’s investigation while ensuring it doesn’t reveal any private consumer information or technology secrets. (NextGov)
  • IT reform legislation will have to wait until next year. House and Senate Armed Service committees have agreed on a 2014 Defense authorization bill. But they left out a section that would overhaul how the government buys technology. The section is known as the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA. It’s main authors are Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). They attached it to the House version. The Senate version had no corresponding amendment. The conference bill also leaves out a plan to merge the Defense Department chief information officer’s job with that of the deputy chief management officer. (Federal News Radio)
  • Alejandro Mayorkas is a step closer to becoming the deputy Homeland Security secretary. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee votes to send his name to the full Senate. Committee Republicans voted present. They want to wait until a DHS inspector general investigation of Mayorkas is completed. He’s now the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Associated Press)
  • An analysis of government data sheds light on the Asiana plane crash at San Francisco’s airport last summer. At the time of the crash that killed three, specific technology that helps pilots navigate the landing approach was not available due to construction at the airport. According to the Wall Street Journal, without this landing aid, called a glideslope, foreign pilots aborted their landings in San Francisco and performed a go-around three times as often as American pilots. Asiana planes had the highest rates of go-arounds in San Francisco. The National Transportation Safety Board hearing Wednesday also revealed the commander of the Asiana jet failed to respond to as many as four verbal warnings from a co-pilot that the aircraft was descending too quickly shortly before impact. (Wall Street Journal)

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