Thursday morning federal headlines – April 5, 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.

  • A discharge hearing for a Camp Pendleton Marine who publicly criticized President Barack Obama will go forward. City News Service reported a San Diego federal judge on Wednesday rejected 26-year-old Sgt. Gary Stein’s request for an emergency temporary restraining order to stop Thursday’s planned hearing. Stein faces an “other than honorable” discharge for starting a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party to encourage fellow service members to exercise their free speech rights. The military has had a policy since the Civil War limiting the free speech of service members, including criticizing the commander in chief. Stein has been a Marine Corps member for nine years. (Federal News Radio)
  • First Lady Michele Obama opened a new front in her campaign to support military service families. Now she is pushing for more jobs close to, or on, military bases. Her Joining Forces organization said it had commitments for 15,000 jobs. They would mostly come from telemarketing and customer support providers. Obama emphasized the portability of those jobs for military spouses who relocate often. Earlier, the first lady pushed for state licensing agencies to recognize certifications for military spouses. Obama paid a visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Accompanied by First Dog Bo, she handed out Easter cookies from the White House pastry shop. (Federal News Radio)
  • The State Department is building its own air force. It issued a request for proposals for a fleet of drones to watch over its installations in Iraq. NextGov reported State wanted a contractor to supply the planes, pilots and support logistics as a turn-key service. The department already operates unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance of the Baghdad embassy. Now it plans to expand coverage using both long range and short range drones. (NextGov)
  • The Obama administration is about to ratchet up the battle against inside cyber threats. An interagency task force is finishing work on a new strategy to prevent occurrences such as the loss of military secrets to WikiLeaks. The Insider Threat Task Force hoped to send its strategy to the White House before summer. John Swift, a task force member from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said most agencies already have some kind of insider threat strategy. He said the national strategy would bring together best practices so agencies could share them. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is opening his office to the public by holding his first “virtual office hours” on Twitter this afternoon. People can use #AskUSDA to send energy-related questions for the live question and answer session. The agency plans to hold tweet-ups monthly to give people the chance to ask leaders questions in real time. It said each session would have a specific focus. (USDA)
  • If you can’t make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., you can still get a 360-degree tour online. The White House is one of several federal museums participating in the expanded Google Art Project. The Freer Gallery of Art was the first Smithsonian to sign up more than a year ago. Directors said it has been a game-changer that lets viewers see art in finer detail than with the naked eye. Now three more Smithsonians have signed on, including the National Portrait Gallery. The art project uses Google Street View technology to create virtual tours of the museums’ highlights. (White House)
  • Agencies should do more overseas to secure the safety of food and medicine here. The Institute of Medicine recommended 13 steps for the Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture Department and other agencies to take. It said they should provide technical expertise, training and tools for regulators in developing countries. They should also provide incentives for private groups to develop cheap technology that those countries could use. The National Academies said it was unrealistic for FDA to guarantee the safety of imported food and drugs on its limited budget without big improvements in the way the exporting countries manage their supplies. (National Academies)
  • A Guantanamo military commission will consider charges against five suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four, alleged, co-conspirators could receive the death penalty if they’re convicted, the Associated Press reported. The Defense Department yesterday formally referred their case to the military tribunal. DoD said each suspect will have a capital defense lawyer. It said they should appear in court for an arraignment within 30 days. (Associated Press)