Thursday federal headlines – July 25, 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 House has passed its version of a Defense appropriations bill for 2014. It would provide a base budget of $512 billion, $5 billion less than was enacted for 2013. But, it’s $28 billion more than the Pentagon ended up with after this year’s sequestration. So far, though, Congress has taken no action to stop another sequester scheduled for 2014. The House bill also includes an additional $86 billion for operations in Afghanistan. The bill would give a 1.8 percent pay raise for service members, but no raises for Defense civilian employees. But it has language to stop civilian furloughs next year. (Federal News Radio)
  • Forget about the mailman walking up to your front door. The Postal Service could phase out door-to-door mail delivery in the next decade under a plan approved by the House Oversight Committee. Lawmakers voted along party lines to send the latest effort to help the Postal Service to the House floor. Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) bill would have mail carriers dropping off packages curbside or at cluster boxes. The measure also would free the Postal Service from having to pre-pay for retirees’ health care. The Postal Service says it is evaluating the plan to see how much money it would save. It needs to make $20 billion in savings by 2017. (Federal News Radio)
  • More details emerged about Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s plan to restructure the department. Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman walked members of the House Energy and Commerce committee through them. Poneman says the goal is to get large sections of the department off the GAO high risk list, where they’ve been parked for 23 years. The high risk entities include the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Office of Environmental Management. Together, they account for 60 percent of DoE’s budget. Both have been plagued with repeated audits detailing mismanagement of billions of dollars worth of contracts. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House and Secretary of State John Kerry are looking to fill the position of deputy secretary for management and resources. They’re giving strong consideration to State Department Counsel Heather Higginbottom, according to Back Channel, which follows diplomatic issues. Higginbottom is a former Office of Management and Budget deputy director. She was also President Barack Obama’s deputy assistant domestic policy advisor. (Back Channel)
  • President Barack Obama’s pick to be the number two official at the Homeland Security Department faces tough questions from lawmakers today about an investigation into his role in helping a company to secure a foreign investor visa. Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is testifying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. The nomination hit a snag Tuesday when The Associated Press first reported that the Homeland Security Inspector General’s Office was investigating Mayorkas’ role in helping secure a foreign investor visa, even after the application was denied and an appeal rejected. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama says he plans to nominate Caroline Kennedy as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. Kennedy, the daughter of president John F. Kennedy, is an attorney and book editor. She was also a steadfast backer of Obama in both of his presidential campaigns. If confirmed, Kennedy would be the first woman ambassador to Japan from the United States. She would replace John Roos. Caroline Kennedy was days shy of her sixth birthday when her father was assassinated in November 1963. (Federal News Radio)
  • The U.S. is delaying delivery of four F16 fighter jets to Egypt. The president and military leaders are concerned about the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi by the Army. The four jets are part of a package of 20 the U.S. agreed to sell to Egypt. Eight have already been delivered. U.S. officials are trying to decide if what happened in Egypt was a coup d’etat. If so, law would require suspension of military aid. Spokesman George Little said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Egypt’s military chief, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, to discuss the administration’s decision. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agencies would have to shut down or consolidate duplicative programs under a bill approved by the House Oversight Committee. The Taxpayers Right to Know Act would force agencies to evaluate their programs for efficiency and name those that should be canceled because they are outdated, unnecessary or just low priorities. Results would go online for all to see. While it might seem familiar to people who use, this measure would require agencies to put more details about expenditures, staffing and program recipients in one place. (U.S. House of Representatives)
  • Congress showed yesterday that it has little appetite for limiting the National Security Agency’s spy capabilities. The House rejected a measure that would have stripped the agency of the legal authority to collect phone records and metadata of Americans who are not under investigation. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took the rare move of voting. He sided with those who wanted to protect the program. The final count was 217 to 205. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), says opponents of the NSA program will fight on. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Security Agency may be tracking Americans’ phone data, but it can’t round up some of its own emails. ProPublica filed an open-records request for NSA employees’ correspondence with documentary filmmakers. But the NSA’s Freedom of Information Act office told the journalism nonprofit, it can’t search internal emails in bulk. ProPublica says that runs counter to practices at large corporations. They do bulk searches of their employees’ emails during internal investigations or legal discovery. (ProPublica)
  • It’s OK for federal officials to monitor social media sites. But in general, officials must avoid tracking individuals or weighing in with likes or other responses. That’s part of the advice in new guidance from the Chief Information Officers Council. The guidance, issued yesterday, focuses on privacy and how agencies can keep from violating it. The council recognizes that social media monitoring is a good way for agencies to gain situational awareness on a particular issue. But the council advises monitors to get approval from agency management first. (CIO Council)