Monday morning federal headlines – April 23, 2012

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.

  • Congressional committees are launching wider investigations into Secret Service activities in Colombia involving prostitutes. The Senate Homeland Security Committee wants to determine whether the incident was an exception, or part of a pattern of misconduct. The House Homeland Security Committee sent Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan a list of 50 questions. Members wanted a comprehensive, minute-by-minute timeline of the event. A Defense spokesman said 11 members of the military are under investigation for misconduct. The alleged partying took place just before President Obama’s arrival in Colombia last week. (Federal News Radio)
  • Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) is upping the pressure to force the Federal Trade Commission out of its headquarters. GovExec reported that Mica has been talking to Dan Tangherlini, the acting administrator of the GSA. Mostly they’re talking about the alleged GSA spending scandal. But Mica also raised the FTC issue. Mica wants FTC moved to a privately-owned building in southwest D.C. so the National Gallery of Art can move into the FTC building. As the federal landlord, GSA is tasked with making a floorplan for the FTC’s possible new headquarters. (GovExec)
  • The National Park Service has released a long-term strategy to develop the Star-Spangled Banner trail that runs through Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. The agency is asking for public comment on a couple of options, although it makes its preference clear. The Park Service wants to offer local authorities technical and financial help on a cost-sharing basis through cultural and natural resources, recreation and conservation programs. The 560-mile trail follows the path that British and American soldiers took during the War of 1812. (NPS)
  • The General Services Administration spending scandal is leading to questions about whether agencies are suppressing whistleblowers. One nonprofit is demanding answers from the Office of Management and Budget. The Washington Post reported that Cause of Action asked OMB to conduct a governmentwide audit to make sure agencies were complying with federal ethics and whistleblower laws. The GSA inspector general who investigated the agency’s lavish Las Vegas conference spending said the regional administrator at the heart of the scandal did not tolerate dissent from employees. IG Brian Miller said Jeff Neely intimidated those who raised questions about the spending. (The Washington Post)
  • Fifty-six soldiers in Afghanistan have been investigated on suspicion of using or distributing heroin, morphine or other opiates during 2010 and 2011 new information showed. During that time, eight soldiers died of drug overdoses. The country supplies up to 90 percent of the world’s opium. The Army said opiate abuse has not been a pervasive problem for troops in Afghanistan. “We have seen sporadic cases of it, but we do not see it as a widespread problem, and we have the means to check,” said Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman. Army officials said they do random drug testing through the service and the goal was that every soldier was tested at least once a year. Top Army leaders said they have not met that goal, but have been working steadily to substantially increase the number of those tested each year. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal food inspectors upset over a plan to speed up poultry inspections are gathering support from all corners. The American Federation of Government Employees delivered nearly 150,000 petitions to the Agriculture Department. With criticism mounting, USDA said it would let the public comment on the proposal for one more month. The agency already has received nearly 600 comments, according to AFGE. The proposal would allow some poultry companies to inspect their own chickens. USDA said the move would allow its staff to focus on dangerous, but hard-to-detect, diseases like salmonella. (AFGE)