Tuesday morning federal headlines – Aug. 14, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Move over, General Services Administration. Now Veterans Affairs is in the pressure cooker over conference spending. The VA inspector general is looking into allegations of wasteful spending at two HR conferences that cost the VA $9 million. Attendees received tens of thousands of dollars worth of swag. Members of Congress are weighing in with outrage. The training conferences in question took place in Orlando, Fla., in July and August of last year. Federal Times reports, the IG is also looking into whether federal employees improperly accepted gifts of spa treatments and concert tickets. In April, the GSA was stung by an IG report detailing lavish conference spending in Las Vegas. (Federal News Radio/Federal Times)
  • The House of Representatives may be on recess until after Labor Day, but Republican members proceeded with plans to sue the Justice Department. They’ve asked a federal court to enforce a subpoena against Attorney General Eric Holder. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, wants Holder to turn over more records concerning the Fast and Furious gun tracing operation. The White House has asserted executive privilege in withholding them. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Aerospace Industries Association hired Econsult Corporation to look at what would happen if the Federal Aviation Administration budget was cut by $10 billion over 10 years due to sequestration. Econsult said FAA would have to layoff 1,500 air traffic controllers and close 240 airport towers. Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said sequestration would cause air gridlock. In all, Econsult said the economy would suffer a $10 billion to $20 billion loss. Last month, the AIA said scheduled budget cuts would cause a loss of 2 million jobs. (Federal News Radio)
  • Ten agencies and bureaus have received platinum awards for how they buy and dispose of electronics. The awards are given out by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive each year. The Federal Electronics Challenge honors agencies that buy green electronics and see that old equipment is properly recycled. The top-award agencies purchased 105,000 certified green electronic products in 2011.They recycled more than 361,000 pounds of electronics. (EPA)
  • Customs and Border Protection is gearing up to test some new high tech border surveillance: military blimps. CBP hopes they’ll help find drug smugglers and people crossing the Mexico border illegally. The Wall Street Journal reports the military will test the $1 million blimps in the next few weeks. If all goes well, it could just give them to CBP free of charge. This is part of a bigger CBP attempt to revitalize its high-tech border security plan. Last year, Homeland Security pulled the plug on the troubled SBInet, the $1 billioin virtual fence of video cameras and radars. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The largest federal labor union is tweaking the way it communicates with members. The American Federation of Government Employees has joined with LaborWeb to place news from headquarters on local chapter websites. You can also expect changes to the look and feel of those sites. AFGE said it was going after a more consistent branding strategy. And the union is also adding Google Apps for email. (AFGE)