Wednesday federal headlines – May 29, 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.

  • State Department officials from the secretary down to the file clerks have new document requests to deal with. They come from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He wants more information about the so-called talking points State used after last year’s attack on the U.S. Compound in Benghazi, Libya. Issa says State isn’t living up to promises of cooperation. A department spokesman says State has delivered 25,000 pages of documents and participated in 30 hearings. (Federal News Radio)
  • The piece of paper makes it real. Thousands of Defense Department employees returned to work from a holiday weekend and were greeted with written furlough notices. A spokesperson told Gov Exec, supervisors hand-delivered the notices where possible and are doing so through June 5. Most civilian employees will have to take up to 11 days of furloughs beginning on July 8. (Gov Exec)
  • The new head of the Internal Revenue Service has tapped a long-time financial manager to help lead the agency out of turmoil. David Fisher is the new chief risk officer and a senior adviser to acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. Fisher comes from the Government Accountability Office, where he handled internal operations as the chief administrative officer. Werfel says Fisher will evaluate the IRS’ operations and recommend ways to mitigate risks and improve internal controls. Werfel is leading an internal review of the IRS as Congress and the Justice Department continue their investigations into the agency’s treatment of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. (Federal News Radio)
  • Momentum is building on Capitol Hill to reform and simplify the tax code. The support comes in the wake of revelations that the IRS held up conservative political groups applying for tax-exempt status. Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said simplification would narrow IRS employees’ discretion. He’s been working with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee. They hope to produce the first tax code reform since 1986. The IRS Taxpayer Advocate has been arguing for years that complexity is the biggest challenge facing both the IRS and the taxpaying public. (Federal News Radio)
  • That phone alert you hear in the middle of the night could be the Office of Personnel Management telling you not to come in to work. OPM has launched an operating-status app. You can sign up for push notifications to know when OPM closes federal buildings because of weather or other emergencies. It’s available for Apple, Android, Windows and BlackBerry. It does not, however, clarify status-alert language that some federal employees have complained is confusing. (OPM)
  • Problems at a big Veterans Affairs hospital in Atlanta are causing a system-wide examination. Two inspector general reports last month found instances of mismanagement and poor patient care at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. Four patients died, one by an apparent suicide. The interim director has been replaced by Leslie Wiggins, a former deputy assistant VA secretary. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said legislation is needed to reform VA operations nationwide. One IG report found internal care problems. The second report found the hospital failed to track patients referred to outside mental health providers. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama plans to nominate Jason Furman to be the next chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. The job requires Senate confirmation. Furman would succeed Alan Krueger, who is returning to Princeton University. Furman is currently principal deputy director of the White House’s National Economic Council. The Wall Street Journal reports, Furman has been on the president’s staff since the beginning of the first term. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Two officials from the U.S. embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, were shot at a strip club early Tuesday. Both men were shot in the abdomen after an altercation. Their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. The incident echoes a scandal last year when Secret Service agents in Cartagena, Colombia, got into an altercation with prostitutes they had hired. It prompted Secret Service to redo its manual for overseas visits. The State Department manual for overseas travel is considered by many to be the model to emulate. It is not known yet whether this trip to a strip club in Caracas was authorized. (Federal News Radio)