Friday morning federal headlines – April 12, 2013

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.

  • Senators caught President Barack Obama’s nominee for EPA adminstrator off guard yesterday when they asked her not about environmental regulations but emails. Members of the Environment and Public Works Committee questioned Gina McCarthy about the agency’s practice of giving administrators two email addresses, one for public use and one for internal government communications. McCarthy said she was unfamiliar with the policy. She pledged to keep her door and mind open. Republicans have criticized her predecessor, Lisa Jackson, for sending emails under the alias “Richard Windsor.” (Federal News Radio)
  • The president’s 2014 budget request includes a plan to dust off an old satellite. It calls for $35 million to refurbish a bird once championed by Vice President Al Gore. The Bush administration shelved the project in 2001. The satellite has sat in a NASA storage locker ever since. If Congress approves, it would be launched by the Air Force. It would park in a spot of equal gravity between the Earth and the sun, and send warnings of sunspots. It was originally designed to detect climate change, a pet concern of Gore’s. Under the new plan, the satellite would be operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Federal News Radio)
  • Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez is tangling with House Republicans. GOP lawmakers have sent Perez a subpoena for his private emails. The subpoena originated with the House Oversight Committee, headed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Perez currently heads the civil rights division at the Justice Department. At issue is a deal between Justice and Saint Paul, Minn. The city agreed to drop a discrimination case headed to the Supreme Court. In return, Perez agreed not to back two whistleblowers against the city. He may have used a private email account during the negotiations. Senate hearings on the Perez nomination start next week. (Federal News Radio)
  • Interior Secretary Ken Salazar passes the baton to incoming leader Sally Jewel today. Salazar will return home to Colorado. Jewell will be sworn in this afternoon at a small, private ceremony at the Supreme Court. Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will administer the oath of office. She worked with Jewell on a National Parks commission. Jewell’s first full day on the job is Monday. Department officials say Jewell will start by meeting with employees and talking big issues like energy development, conservation, Indian Affairs and youth engagement. (Federal News Radio)
  • It’s also the last day on the job for Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry. He sent an email to staff yesterday congratulating them on streamlining federal recruitment, opening federal health benefits to more employees and helping veterans find jobs in the government. OPM general counsel Elaine Kaplan will serve as acting director starting Monday. Kaplan came to OPM from the National Treasury Employees Union. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House is asking Congress to update the law which created the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. It was first enacted in 1959. But lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want more details. Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is wondering how much the changes would save the government in the long run. The Office of Personnel Management would like to let regional insurance carriers into the program. They want the ability to negotiate bulk pricing from drug companies. And they want legal authority to offer domestic partner coverage. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new memorial honors civilian employees across government who have died while serving their country. The Wall of Honor stands in the Office of Personnel Management’s lobby. It’s the first governmentwide memorial of its kind. Rather than list the names of the fallen, the wall contains stars and two flags. But OPM is maintaining a webpage too. That has a preliminary list of those killed since January of last year. The 27 names include that of Anne Smedinghoff, the 25-year-old diplomat killed Saturday in Afghanistan. (OPM>
  • The FBI has appointed a new leader of its terrorist screening center. Christopher Piehota will take the job of managing the government’s nerve center for terrorist screening. The center supports field agents by being the authority on watchlisting and identifying terrorists and coordinating activity. Piehota was head of the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office. He has worked before in the terrorist screening center and in other Bureau counterterrorism programs. (OPM>
  • Sequestration didn’t stop the Homeland Security Department from ordering bagpipes, drums and accessories. That took lots of bad publicity. The Examiner reports, DHS has withdrawn a solicitation for the musical equipment. The original request for quotes was reprinted on several conservative websites. Eventually, the widely-read Drudge Report picked it up. Yesterday, DHS withdrew the request. The bagpipes and drums were to be used by Customs and Border Protection. (The Examiner)