Friday federal headlines – November 15, 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.

  • Transportation Security Administration officials and their employee union are questioning whether the officer killed in the Los Angeles Airport shooting could have been saved. Officer Gerardo Hernandez was 20 feet from a door after he was shot by a deranged gunman earlier this month. But he lay on the floor bleeding for 33 minutes. That’s because paramedics were barred by police from entering the terminal. Most of the wait time took place after the gunman was shot and taken into custody. AFGE Local President Victor Payes suspects a lack of coordination between police and fire commanders ended up ensuring Hernandez died of his wounds. (Associated Press)
  • Federal pensions are once again in play on Capitol Hill. GovExec reports, a trio of Republican senators introduced a bill to eliminate the defined benefit pension for new employees. Those employees would also receive up to 5 percent matching funds for contributions to their Thrift Savings Plans. Current employees would not be affected. Sponsors are Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Burr says federal employees get more generous benefits than those in the private sector. He sponsored a similar bill in 2011 that never made it out of committee. (GovExec)
  • The CIA is gathering vast data on international money transfers under the same legal code that lets the National Security Agency collect data on Americans’ phone and Internet use. The Wall Street Journal reports, the CIA collects the data to help the FBI in its terrorism investigations. The New York Times reports, the CIA does not track purely domestic transfers or bank-to-bank transactions. But its existence shows government data collection programs extend beyond the NSA. In some cases, the CIA is tracking social security numbers to tie people to specific financial transactions. (NY Times/Wall Street Journal)
  • A former FBI explosives expert was sentenced on Thursday to three-and-a-half years in prison for possessing secret information and telling the Associated Press about it. Donald Sachtleben pleaded guilty to both counts. The information included details about a U.S. operation in Yemen. The resulting stories prompted the government to seize AP phone records, looking for the source. Sachtleben also received an eight-year term on unrelated charges of possessing distributing child pornography. (Associated Press)
  • The Air Force says it will do a better job of vetting candidates for a top nuclear position. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh says the service is looking more closely at candidates’ health records and other personal information. Welsh says it’s going to Google candidates too. The Air Force fired Maj. Gen. Michael Carey last month for behavior linked to alcohol abuse. Carey had commanded the Air Force unit responsible for Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles. There has been a reshuffling of nuclear commanders. Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler is scheduled to step down today as head of Strategic Command. He’ll be replaced by Navy Adm. Cecil Haney. (Associated Press)
  • The Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds will be zipping across the skies at air shows this year. But the military is canceling more than 1,000 other public activities because of budget cuts. The Pentagon plans to spend nearly $130 million on outreach. That’s just 45 percent of what it budgeted in 2012. Each service has put together its own wish list of priority events. The annual open house at Andrews Air Force Base did not make the cut. (Associated Press)
  • Federal officials hope a new initiative can help prevent damage resulting from drought. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says his department has been aggressive in responding to drought but must be more pro-active. It is teaming up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide better data about long-term weather prospects and soil moisture levels. Vilsack will announce the National Drought Resilience Partnership later today. It also involves the departments of Interior and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA. (Associated Press)
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is thinking up new ways to make more cars safer. Administrator David Strickland wants auto makers to speed up adoption of safety technologies now found only on expensive cars. These include sensors that detect an impending crash or whether the driver has been drinking. Strickland’s call comes as traffic deaths rose for the first time since 2005. He says the panel will decide by year end on how it will encourage the car makers to make the technologies more widely available. (Associated Press)