Thursday morning federal headlines – Aug. 16, 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 chief of staff for Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed herself on leave. Suzanne Barr faces a review of accusations from a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by an ICE employee. James T. Hayes Jr., the special agent in charge of the ICE New York field office, filed the suit in May against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in U.S. District Court. Hayes accused Barr of creating a “frat-house type atmosphere” at ICE that targeted and humiliated male employees. An ICE spokesman said the charges have been referred to the agency inspector general. Barr worked for DHS Secretary Napolitano when she was governor of Arizona. (Federal News Radio)
  • Heads rolled following revelations of lavish spending at a General Services Administration conference. Now one fired executive wants to put his head back on his shoulders. Paul Prouty has filed an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Prouty is former Rocky Mountain Region 8 commissioner for GSA’s Public Buildings Service. He worked 41 years for the government. Prouty was acting GSA commissioner in 2009. Sources told Federal News Radio, other fired employees might also appeal. The dismissals followed a GSA inspector general’s report in April detailing spending at the Western Regions Conference in 2010. (Federal News Radio)
  • J. David Cox was elected national president of the American Federation of Government Employees at the union’s conference in Las Vegas. Eugene Hudson was elected national secretary-treasurer, and Augusta Thomas was re-elected as vice president for women’s and fair practices. The officers are to be sworn in this morning. Cox has served six years as AFGE’s secretary treasurer. In that time, the union gained 52,000 members, including Transportation Security Officers. (Federal News Radio)
  • NASA has chosen a project to test “green” rocket fuel. Ball Aerospace & Technologies will lead a team demonstrating a non-toxic propellant. The fuel is cheaper and safer. If all goes well, it could replace hydrazine currently used on spacecraft. Ball Aerospace will receive $45 million for the test. NASA has slated the mission to happen about three years from now. (NASA)
  • Veterans Affairs has married old with new to save cash and go green. The department has installed a new Environmental Management System at its 94-year-old central office. The system can monitor electricity and water usage among other things. VA said it would collect 3,000 data points every 10 seconds. That information will help the department find usage patterns and save up to $3.5 million. VA said the system might also work for other agencies. (Veterans Affairs)
  • An unmanned experimental aircraft plunged into the Pacific Ocean yesterday after a control fin malfunctioned. The X-15-A Waverider is a hypersonic aircraft the Air Force wants to fly at Mach 6 or six times the speed of sound. But the aircraft lost control and broke apart off the California coast. Another Waverider suffered a similar fate in a test flight last year. Only one Waverider remains and the Air Force hasn’t decided whether it will fly. (Federal News Radio)