Thursday federal headlines – June 6, 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 Internal Revenue Service has placed two employees on administrative leave for accepting free food at a conference party. Congressional sources say the pair accepted $1,100 worth of food and other items. The IRS says it’s considering firing the pair. The incident took place at a 2010 conference in Anaheim that cost the agency $4.1 million. Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel testifies on Capitol Hill today about IRS conference spending. The IRS wouldn’t publicly identify the workers. Congressional aides said one is Frederick Schindler, director of implementation oversight in the agency’s Affordable Care Act office. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration has finalized a deal with Donald Trump to redevelop the Old Post Office Pavilion. Trump will lease the downtown complex for the next 60 years. He’ll spend $200 million on it and build a luxury hotel, restaurants, conference facilities and a spa. GSA has sent the lease to Congress for a 30-day review. GSA head Dan Tangherlini says the lease will save the government millions of dollars, while restoring the historic site. GSA and Trump have spent more than a year negotiating the deal. Construction is supposed to begin next year. (GSA)
  • A new inspector general report says the TSA’s five-year-old program to spot sketchy behavior is a failure. The IG says it’s neither objective nor strategic. TSA agrees with recommendations to develop a strategic plan, implement controls and retrain officers. But it may be too late. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, has sponsored a measure to kill funding for the program. He cites a history of racial profiling allegations and a lack of measurable results. TSA has spent $1 billion on the program. About 5 percent of transportation security officers work on it. (DHS)
  • The Transportation Security Administration is giving up on a plan to let airline passengers carry small knives aboard. Miniature baseball bats, golf clubs and lacrosse sticks will also remain verboten. TSA administrator John Pistole says the agency needs to move on to other priorities. When he announced the knife-aboard plan in April, Pistole was assailed by criticism from the airline industry, flight attendants unions and members of Congress. Pistole thought allowing small folding knives and the like would simplify and speed up passenger searches. Now the agency will focus on projects such as its Pre-Check program. That will let low risk passengers exchange personal information for a fast lane through security checkpoints. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency has kicked contractors out of its Landover, Md., warehouse after the inspector general found multiple TVs, weight machines and a messy record-keeping system. The IG’s early-warning report says the agency failed to oversee personal property and warehouse space. Auditors found unsecured passports among vermin feces and mold. The warehouse stores sensitive objects, such as passports, electronic equipment and computers for EPA headquarters. The agency is assessing the damage. Apex Logistics of College Park managed the warehouse. (EPA)
  • The body of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) will lie in the Capitol today so that Congress and the public can pay their respects. Lautenberg was the last World War II veteran to serve in the Senate. At his funeral yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden remembered Lautenberg as someone who “never quit anything.” Lautenberg sponsored a 1984 law that threatened to withhold federal highway money from states if they did not raise the legal drinking age to 21. He will be buried tomorrow at Arlington National Ceremony. He died Monday at the age of 89. He suffered complications from pneumonia. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Security Agency is collecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers. The Guardian reports, the NSA received permission in April from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The order covers a three month period that ends July 19. The scope of the permission is unusual. Most FISA orders cover named suspects in specific cases. The blanket order forces Verizon to hand over data on location, time, duration and unique identifiers of wireless calls. But NSA can’t see what people said on the calls. (The Guardian)