Tuesday federal headlines – August 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • New federal retirees can still expect a long wait for their full annuity payments. The Office of Personnel Management says it won’t make its goal of clearing its retirement claims backlog this year. OPM says sequestration has set the plan back months. It probably won’t be done until next summer. Employees haven’t been able to work overtime, and the stack of applications is growing. More people than expected have retired. Two years ago, OPM unveiled the strategy for tackling the backlog. It hinged on hiring back retired specialists and having staff work overtime. OPM promised to cut the wait time down to 2 months. It now stands at three months on average, down from five when the project began. (Federal News Radio)
  • The FBI let informants break the law more than 5600 times in a recent year. USA Today got a copy of an internal report from 2011. Former FBI officials tell the paper, sometimes they have to let informants commit crimes as part of a larger investigation. It is not done randomly or taken lightly. The report does not include information about the type of crime. The Justice Department has required the data for years. The FBI has never before made it public. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) says all federal law enforcement agencies should report on the most serious crimes their informants commit. (USA Today)
  • President Barack Obama is putting pressure on Congress to close down mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. With Phoenix as his backdrop, Obama will outline his proposal. There are competing measures in Congress. A bipartisan Senate plan would give Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac five years to wind down operations. It would replace the two with a single federal guarantor. The President has praised the Senate effort. Advisors say he will call for Fannie and Freddie’s investment portfolios to shrink by 15 percent a year. He wants the government to step in only after private capital has been exhausted. (Associated Press)
  • What toddler wouldn’t love a party with astronauts? NASA is throwing its Curiosity Rover a bash to celebrate its first anniversary on Mars. NASA plans a day-long event here on Earth. Yesterday, engineers commanded Curiosity to play Happy Birthday on one of its instruments. The team has said that landing Curiosity on Mars was a terrifying experience. Because of the distance, they did not know for seven minutes whether they had succeeded. Since then, Curiosity has been roaming the Red Planet looking for signs of life. It has found rounded pebbles, which show there was once a riverbed. It’s also taking lots of photos. One engineer says it looks a lot like Utah. (Associated Press)
  • The Treasury Department is defining how it will distribute the billions of dollars in civil penalties from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The department has sent a proposed rule to the White House, The Hill reports. The rule is based on a 2012 law that directs the Treasury Department to spend the money on projects that restore the Gulf Coast’s wetlands, fisheries and other environmental and economic projects. It comes as BP renews calls of fraud in the program. It has awarded billions to alleged victims of the massive 2010 oil spill. (The Hill)
  • Japan is asking the U.S. military not to fly its HH-60 helicopters until it figures out why one crashed at Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan yesterday. The Air Force says it stopped looking for a missing crew member after it found human remains near the the crash site. It hasn’t yet identified the remains. Three out of the four crew members ejected from the aircraft are in stable condition, Air Force officials say. (Associated Press)
  • 50,000 new military spouse hires by 2015. That was the challenge set by the Defense Department and the White House back in 2011. The DoD announces it has met that goal two years early. The challenge is part of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership. More than 180 employers agreed to make a special effort to hire military spouses. The DoD says the newly formed Spouse Ambassador Network helped the department meet its goal. (Defense News)
  • After years of delays, today the trial of the Fort Hood shooter begins. Major Nidal Hasan will represent himself at the court martial. Some of the victims are expected to testify, meaning they will come face to face with their attacker in the courtroom. More than 30 people were wounded and 13 died in the attack on the post’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center in 2009. The military judge told jurors yesterday the trial could take months. Hasan faces charges of murder and attempted murder. He could get the death penalty if convicted. He has never denied carrying out the attack. (Associated Press)
  • The Homeland Security Department is set to tap Chief McAfee Executive Phyllis Schneck as the next head of its cyber security division, the Wall Street Journal reports. Her predecessor, Mark Weatherford, held the deputy undersecretary of cybersecurity spot for less than 18 months. Interim Head Bruce McConnell announced his resignation in July. Schneck will be in charge of finding a way to implement President Obama’s executive cybersecurity protection orders. (Wall Street Journal)