Friday morning federal headlines – Aug. 17, 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.

  • Fans worldwide are mourning the loss of a Marine Corps mascot that helped service members get through a difficult and dangerous mission. Smoke the Donkey died this week at a ranch in Nebraska. Ret. Col. John Folsom helped bring Smoke to the United States. Folsom said he met Smoke several years ago in Afghanistan, when the malnourished donkey wandered onto a Marine base. Officials designated him as a therapy animal that helped reduce service members’ stress and let them send happy photos back to their families in the U.S. Army troops who relieved Marines in Anbar province gave the donkey to a local sheikh. (
  • The former president of the Border Patrol agents’ union has been indicted on 12 federal counts of fraud. Prosecutors say Terence J. Bonner charged hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal spending to the union. He passed them off as business travel expenses. Among the expenses were visits to his mistress and tickets to hockey games. Bonner, known as T.J., spent 22 years at the National Border Control Council. He retired last year. Prosecutors say he collected premium pay for working overtime. But they say that during some of those hours Bonner was downloading pornography at home. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Transportation Department is planning to sidestep what it sees as a major roadblock: Congress. Secretary Ray LaHood will announce today more than $470 million to states that promise to use the money to create jobs and improve infrastructure. The money comes from funds Congress set aside in past years for transportation projects. But since then, the Republican led House has banned earmarks. The move comes as President Barack Obama seeks to portray Republicans as the party of “No.” States will have to identify how they’ve use the funds by Oct.1. (Federal News Radio)
  • Transportation Security officers called up for active military duty now have a legal guarantee that they’ll get their jobs back when they return home. President Barack Obama signed a law yesterday that mandates that TSA comply with USERRA. By doing so, he closes a loophole in the law that protects service-members elsewhere. Congress had exempted TSA from the law in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because it wanted the agency to have broad powers to hire, fire and promote officers. But sponsors said TSA no longer needs special treatment. (Library of Congress)
  • Federal social media accounts are popping up like dandelions. Now the General Services Administration is creating a registry so visitors know which ones are legitimate. GSA is asking agencies and members of Congress to sign up at By spring, a database of federal social URLs will be available to the public at and its Spanish-language counterpart, GSA officials also hope the registry will provide a picture of how federal agencies are using social media. GSA is consulting with Sunlight Labs, Code for America and (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal executives’ financial details won’t have to be posted online, at least for now. President Barack Obama has signed a bill delaying implementation of the STOCK Act. Now it won’t go into effect until Sept. 30, unless Congress modifies it. The STOCK Act requires members of Congress and senior federal officials to post their financial transactions to a public website. It’s supposed to discourage trading on insider information. Opponents say posting publicly could make them targets of criminals. (Federal News Radio)
  • You may see odd-looking kiosks popping up in parking lots in and around the Capitol. The president signed a bill authorizing construction of electric car charging stations in parking areas controlled by the House. The law says the stations must be operated at no net cost to the government. That means users will likely have to pay a fee to use them. The Ronald Reagan building has charging stations in its garage for use by Environmental Protection Agency employees. (Federal News Radio)
  • In the wake of a sex scandal at an Air Force training center, leaders are urging airmen to uphold standards of behavior. Secretary Michael Donley spoke yesterday at a Florida convention of airmen. He said the service is helping sexual assault victims and increasing protection for trainees. He expected investigators to identify any systemic breakdowns. Earlier this week, Chief Master Sgt. James Roy told the convention: the Air Force had a sexual assault problem. He said digital communications like email and texting have made it harder for people to recognize non-verbal cues. Bystanders, he said, needed to spot warning signals and speak up. More than a dozen trainers at Lackland Air Force Base face charges of sexually assaulting students. One has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. (Air Force)