Friday federal headlines – December 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.

  • As the clock runs down, House and Senate budget negotiations are getting tougher. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are close to a deal on 2014 and 2015 spending. It would reduce the need for sequestration. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi threw a potential monkey wrench into the works. She vowed to withhold support unless the final deal includes a $25 billion expansion in unemployment benefits. Republicans are unlikely to accept that provision. House Speaker John Boehner says he’s firm about a House recess before next Friday. (Associated Press)
  • With just a week left before the House adjourns for the holidays, the Pentagon’s biggest supporters on Capitol Hill are now working on an alternative to the defense authorization bill stuck in the Senate. Democrats and Republicans on the Armed Services Committees say a simpler bill is more likely to pass. The fallback plan would cover a pay raise for troops, buy new ships and aircraft and address sexual assault in the military. Other measures, like limits on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs or sanctions on Iran, would wait until next year. (Associated Press)
  • Next summer, you might not need that sweater to combat aggressive air- conditioning in your office. The President’s latest executive order on energy management tells federal agencies, among other things, to install energy and water monitors in their buildings. It also says managers should use Green Button, an online tool that lets utility customers download their energy data. Agencies will have to disclose that data to the public. The order also calls for agencies to get a fifth of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. That’s more than double the current target of 7.5 percent. But the White House says newer technology and greater supplies have put the goal within reach. (Associated Press)
  • Smell snow in the air? Winter may be two weeks away, but the Office of Personnel Management is tweaking its procedures for notifying federal employees of weather-related cancellations and late openings. Now when severe weather strikes, OPM will no longer tell employees to stay off the roads until a certain time. Instead, OPM will issue a later deadline for people to arrive at work. The option for unscheduled telework will stay part of the equation. The National Weather Service promises to give earlier warnings to OPM when forecasters see heavy snow coming. (Federal News Radio)
  • The number of federal employees filing for retirement is falling. And so is the rate of retirement claims processed by the Office of Personnel Management. Retirement filings dropped in November for the fifth straight month, to about 5,700. That’s about the same number of claims OPM processed. The month earlier it processed 11,000. Still, the agency says it met its goal of processing as many claims as it receives in a month. That keeps the backlog from growing. The drop in retirements stands in sharp contrast to earlier this year, when a surge of cases swamped the agency. (Federal News Radio)
  • Looking forward to the weekend? For federal employees, it could be the dullest but most important Saturday and Sunday of the year. That’s according to Federal News Radio Senior Correspondent Mike Causey. Monday marks the last day federal employees can change or add health plans and other benefits. Experts tell Causey up to 30 percent of federal employees should switch health plans because their circumstances have changed from last year. Few people do, however. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Department gave new details on how it plans to carry out the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons. Speaking on background, an official described a field-deployable hydrolysis system. It uses water, heat and bleach to turn the chemicals into low-level hazardous waste. The resulting waste can be stored commercially. The official says Syria has hundreds of tons of mustard and nerve gases. Most are in tanks, not loaded into artillery shells. The official says DoD has experience in neutralizing similar chemicals from when the U.S. got rid of its own stockpiles a decade ago. The Syrian operation will take place aboard a tanker ship being readied for deployment. (Defense Department)
  • Two junior sailors will lay a wreath tomorrow at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns. They’ll mark the 68th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Navy says it’s a rare honor usually reserved for the President or senior military officers. But the service is breaking with protocol to help the younger generation better understand the Navy’s history. The two sailors are Petty Officer Victoria Ruiz and Seaman Yesenia Munoz. They are the youngest sailors at the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington Navy Yard. (Navy)