Friday federal headlines – December 20, 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 Senate votes in favor of the 2014 defense authorization bill. It’s now headed for the White House. President Obama has said he’ll sign it. The House voted its approval last week. The bill authorizes a base budget of $552 million, plus $81 billion for the war in Afghanistan. It provides for a 1 percent military pay raise. The bill contains big changes in how the military deals with cases of sexual assault. Commanders lose the right to overturn military court convictions. Victims may request civilian review if the military declines to prosecute a case. Sexual assault cases would no longer have a statute of limitations. (Associated Press)
  • Janet Yellen will have to wait until next year for her confirmation to head the Federal Reserve. The Senate plans to wait until it comes back from break on Jan. 6. But two other nominees will receive confirmations today. Alejandro Mayorkas for the deputy secretary at the Homeland Security Department and John Koskinen to head the Internal Revenue Service. (Reuters)
  • Senate Democrats are telling the Office of Personnel Management, don’t force federal employees to go on a year-end spending spree for eyeglasses and other health items. The lawmakers want the agency to change Flexible Spending Account rules that now say feds have to use that money by the end of the year or lose it. The Treasury Department changed rules this year to let U.S. workers roll over $500 of unused health funds. OPM has yet to modify rules for the FSA Feds program. (Senate)
  • New Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta is putting her own stamp on the place. She’s hired two former Obama re-election campaign cronies. Ann Marie Habershaw becomes Archuleta’s chief of staff. Chris Canning will become her adviser. She’s also reaching into the ranks of career staff. Angela Bailey will become OPM’s chief operating officer. Mark Reinhold take over Bailey’s old job as chief human capital officer and associate director of employee services. Chuck Grimes, the former COO, moves to the Healthcare and Insurance operation, where he’ll serve as deputy director. (Federal News Radio)
  • People with disabilities make up a record 16 percent of new federal hires. That’s the good news, according to the Office of Personnel Management. But agencies aren’t hiring fast enough to meet a presidential mandate. President Barack Obama told agencies to hire 100,000 people with disabilities. He gave them five years in which to do it. But three years in, agencies have hired about 54,000. OPM Director Katherine Archuleta says the government has more work to do but is committed to remaining a model employer of people with disabilities. (Federal News Radio)
  • The trade group TechAmerica hire a Capitol Hill and technology veteran to head its public sector lobby shop. Mike Hettinger will join TechAmerica as senior vice president for public sector. Four people left TechAmerica in November and joined the rival IT Industry Council. The two groups are in a legal tangle over the defections. Hettinger starts work Jan. 6. He is now an executive at the Software and Information Industry Association. He’s also worked as chief of staff to former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (Federal News Radio)
  • For months, two separate government panels have been studying the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. Now the first panel wants to abolish the second. That’s one recommendation in the President’s review group’s 300-page report. It says lawmakers should get rid of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. It says the board is too limited because it cannot consider all foreign intelligence issues. That expansion of authority would need legislation from Congress. The board’s chairman, David Medine, says it’s not a bad idea, but it requires more staff and resources. The current board has four members and five staffers. (Associated Press)
  • A government watchdog says the Secret Service does not have a widespread problem with misconduct among agents, despite a prostitution scandal in Columbia last year. Nonetheless, CBS News reports the Homeland Security inspector general is recommending 14 ways the agency can prevent and respond more effectively to misbehavior. The IG bases its report, in part, on a survey of secret service employees. 83 percent of them say they aren’t aware of any colleagues with drinking problems or penchants for prostitutes. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) tweets:


    (CBS News)

  • The former commander of the nation’s nuclear missiles was publicly drunk and cavorted with questionable women. This all happened while on officials business in Russia. That’s according to the Air Force’s report on the firing of Maj. Gen. Michael Carey in October. At the time, the Air Force didn’t say why Carey was let go. The report came out yesterday. It says Carey drank heavily, was rude to his Russian hosts, and spoke and danced with women who might have been security threats. He spoke loudly in a hotel lobby about the low morale of his forces. A female staff member in the defense secretary’s office complained after the trip. (Associated Press)
  • Army Cyber Command is headed down south to Fort Gordon, Ga. All of the cyber and network operations will get a single boss in Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon. Since the command’s establishment in 2010, it has been split among several buildings in this region. The Army says it considered other options, but the move to Georgia is the cheapest by far. It requires the fewest personnel and reduces construction headaches. (Defense Department)