Friday morning federal headlines – July 27, 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.

  • The number of instructors under investigation for sexual misconduct at a Texas Air Force base has gone up again. The count is now at 15 after three more instructors were implicated in the Lackland Air Force base scandal. Seven more alleged victims have also come forward, bringing the count to 38. Military officials declined to identify the three additional instructors now under investigation because they not been charged. Last week, Staff Sergeant Luis Walker was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of rape and other crimes at the base. Five other instructors have been charged. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Agriculture Department moved quickly to reassure ranchers: Meatless Monday was not their idea. A newsletter tid-bit on the department’s internal website posted earlier this week may have led staff to think otherwise by encouraging employees to skip meat on Mondays. The newsletter cited data showing animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases. The agency said the statement was posted without proper clearance. The USDA removed the item after the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association complained, questioning the USDA’s commitment to farmers and ranchers.(Federal News Radio)
  • If you want to work at the Justice Department it may help to have a family member there. A new inspector general’s report finds that Justice Department staff are going too far in finding work for their relatives. The inspector general reports at least eight current and former senior-level managers, who worked in the management division and include human resources and finance staff, violated nepotism laws. They allegedly manipulated the hiring process so that their children and other relatives could obtain internships or full-time jobs at Justice. The inspector general report accuses a deputy assistant attorney general of failing to investigate despite warning signs of suspected violations. This is the third time in less than a decade that the inspector general has investigated the management division for improper hiring practices(Federal News Radio)
  • The next fiscal year starts in a little over two months but Congress isn’t rushing to pass a budget. Leaders on both sides of the aisle say they might delay considering any major spending bills until next year. The idea of passing a six-month stopgap measure appears to be gaining favor. GOP aides said their bosses like the idea. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he’d rather not deal with budget issues during a lame-duck session. Lawmakers already have a packed agenda for the remainder of this term. They have to figure out what to do about sequestration and expiring tax cuts. The six-month stopgap measure would keep the government running at current budget levels.(Federal News Radio)
  • The Obama administration and major health insurers are stepping up efforts to stop Medicare fraud. Insurance executives and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius have launched an information-sharing campaign and agreed to swap investigative know-how. Sibelius said the public-private partnership will help overcome the scattered nature of health care fraud. Medicare false claims amount to $60 billion each year. HHS investments in automated fraud-catching programs haven’t worked. By sharing information, the department and insurers hope to be more effective at finding patients who try to cheat the system.(Federal News Radio)
  • Two agencies are proceeding with major technology acquisitions, despite the bleak budget outlook. The VA expects to make contract awards by September 30 for a $5 billion equipment-buying program. And the General Services Administration is about to seek bids for a government-wide cybersecurity project. The VA’s new program is called Commodity Enterprise Contract. It will run for five years. The GSA plans to buy network monitoring tools to be used at all civilian agencies.(Federal News Radio)
  • A proposed Pentagon plan to limit the size of its civilian workforce is drawing ire from Capitol Hill. The Defense comptroller issued guidance to hold civilian staffing at 2010 levels until 2018. House Armed Service Committee member Randy Forbes questioned whether the DoD is setting arbitrary caps on employment. But the Pentagon’s top workforce official said the DoD has a target workforce size in mind, and is not capping the number of personnel. Employee unions report few DoD agencies are actually adding people right now. The department has also called for a 30 percent reduction in contractor personnel costs. (Federal News Radio)