Thursday federal headlines – June 13, 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.

  • Washington, D.C., area federal agencies are open today. But, with forecasters predicting flash floods, non-emergency employees have the option of working from home. The Office of Personnel Management says you can take unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework with your supervisor’s approval. Emergency employees should report to work as usual. A flash flood watch is in effect for parts of Maryland, Virginia and the District through 8 p.m. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department is claiming progress in the war against its own backlog of disability claims. NextGov reports, VA has reduced the number of pending claims by 74,000 since March. That’s according to Thomas Murphy, director of the VA Compensation and Pension Services. He told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, he thinks the department can reach its goal of processing all claims by the end of 2015. Right now, VA’s in-basket has more than 850,000 claims. Two-thirds of those are more than 125-days old. (NextGov)
  • The more federal agencies try to consolidate data centers, the more centers they seem to discover. Federal Times reports, that’s the gist of what the Government Accountability Office told a Senate panel. Dave Powner, GAO’s director of IT management, said the latest inventory shows agencies operate 6,000 data centers. That’s twice what they thought they had three years ago at the launch of the consolidation initiative. Powner said the Defense and Agriculture departments in particular keep finding data centers. Under criteria set by the Office of Management and Budget, a computer or switch room as small as 500 square feet counts as a data center. (Federal Times)
  • The White House is still taking applications for the Presidential Rank Awards. But it has suspended the hefty bonuses that go with them. An administration official says it’s not sensible to hand out tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses when budgets are tight. On Monday, the Office of Personnel Management notified agencies that the nomination period would be extended until this Friday. OPM Acting Director Elaine Kaplan said participation has been low. She speculated that may be because would-be nominators suspected the bonuses would be gone. Awardees get up to 35 percent of their pay in bonuses. (Federal News Radio)
  • The director of the National Security Agency came out swinging in congressional hearings over electronic surveillance. Army General Keith Alexander told senators the surveillance has helped the government stop dozens of terrorist attacks. Two of the data-gathering programs were made public by a leaker working for contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. FBI director Robert Mueller has his turn today. He’ll testify before the House Judiciary Committee about the Boston Marathon bombings and the Benghazi diplomatic attack. It may be Mueller’s final Capitol Hill appearance as director. He’s set to retire Sept. 4 after 12 years on the job. (Federal News Radio)
  • New CIA Director John Brennan has hired a member of his inner circle to be his number-two at the agency. White House lawyer Avril Haines will replace CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell when he retires in August. Haines will be the first woman to hold the post. She is now the deputy counsel to the president and legal adviser to the National Security Council. In that capacity, she worked closely with Brennan, who served as the president’s counterterrorism adviser, until he left for the CIA. Morell will join the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, a group of mostly retired intelligence officers. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration owes female special agents back pay and promotions. The Federal Times reports the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says gender discrimination is rampant at the DEA. The EEOC’s recent ruling is part of a long-running class action lawsuit brought by female special agents who sought assignments abroad. Between 100 to 250 women are eligible for the back pay and compensatory damages of up to $300,000 each. The women applied for the assignments between 1990 and 1992. (Federal Times)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton is in Delaware today to announce his agents have seized a long- lost Nazi diary. It’s the diary of Adolf Hitler’s friend Alfred Rosenberg. Rosenberg helped plan the Nazi take-over of Europe, and the killing of millions of Jews in the Holocaust. ICE has a homeland security investigations team dedicated to recovering smuggled artifacts. Past captures have included paintings, manuscripts and an Egyptian sarcophagus. (ICE)