Wednesday federal headlines – May 22, 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.

  • The Pentagon is asking Congress for more than $450 million to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open. Nearly half of the money would go to upgrade facilities that were intended to be temporary. The work could take more than eight years. The rest of the money would be spent on operations and needed technology like a fiber optic cable. President Barack Obama is expected to address the request in a speech Thursday. He has vowed to close the prison, but it’s currently illegal to transfer inmates to the United States. Most of the 166 detainees are now on hunger strike. (Federal News Radio)
  • The furlough threat is evaporating at the Agriculture Department. GovExec reports, Senate appropriators approved a request to shift money within the Rural Development Division. If the House goes along, USDA would avoid furloughs for the division’s 4,899 employees. A vote could come today, according to an appropriations committee spokeswoman. The rest of the department’s roughly 90,000 employees are already off the hook. Agriculture is among a few departments that Congress has granted what it calls interchange transfer authority. (GovExec)
  • The House Appropriations Committee has passed a tight spending plan, as Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) warns fiscal 2014 will be tough. The measure passed along party lines. The plan caps discretionary spending at $967 billion. It would deepen cuts to domestic agencies, including the departments of Education, Interior and State. On the other hand, it spares the military budget, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. (Federal News Radio)
  • A mid-level IRS executive will follow a time-honored tradition when she appears before Congress today. Lois Lerner will plead the Fifth. Her lawyer says Lerner will refuse to answer questions before the House oversight committee because the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation. Lerner heads the IRS exempt organizations unit. She’s at the center of a controversy over how IRS handled applications from conservative groups. Yesterday, former IRS Commissioner Douglas Schulman said he kept mum about the affair, knowing the Treasury Inspector General was looking into it. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel has a second job, at least for today. He’s overseeing the White House management team until a new deputy director for management is named. The previous DDM, Jeff Zients, has left the government. A spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget says VanRoekel still has his CIO duties. The Senate votes on Brian Deese to be DDM this afternoon. OMB also named Norman Dong to lead the federal financial management office. He steps in for Danny Werfel, who became acting IRS commissioner. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Homeland Security Department is leading an all-out effort to aid state and local officials in Oklahoma. A gigantic tornado flattened the city of Moore, near Oklahoma City, Monday. FEMA says it has 300 people there, including administrator Craig Fugate. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano met with members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation. She plans to travel there today. The Pentagon sent firefighters and equipment from Tinker Air Force Base. Agriculture is offering special assistance. And Housing and Urban Development says it will offer home foreclosure protection. (FEMA/USDA/HUD)
  • The House Oversight Committee votes today on a bill to track how many hours feds spend on union activities. That includes representing a union or consulting with federal managers on behalf of a union. The measure would require the Office of Personnel Management to report annually to Congress. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) sponsored the bill. He says the government should not be paying for employees to conduct union business. OPM’s report on fiscal 2011 showed feds were spending more time on union activities than in years past, nearly 3.4 million hours. That’s still less than 3 hours a year per employee covered by a union. (Rep. Dennis Ross)