Monday federal headlines – December 2, 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 legal battle between two technology industry trade groups has ratcheted up. Sued by TechAmerica, the IT Industry Council is counter-suing. It calls the TechAmerca suit “fatally deficient” and “nebulous.” ITI is asking the Superior Court of D.C. to dismiss the other group’s actions. At issue are four key employees who left TechAmerica abruptly to join ITI last month. TechAmerica is also suing three of the four employees. It claims breach of contract and seeks $5 million in damages. The two organizations are vying to be the pre-eminent voice on Capitol Hill for the IT industry and legislation covering IT procurement. (Federal News Radio)
  • It’s one thing to want to buy sustainable, green products. How to do it — that’s the challenge. The General Services Administration and the EPA are asking industry for comments on how commercial environmental standards could be used by the government. They’re looking for insight on whether existing standards and labels used to mark products are effective. Jim Jones, EPA’s assistant administrator for chemicals and pollution prevention, says the effort will help both the government and consumers meet their sustainability goals. Comments are due by Feb. 25. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Health and Human Services Department says is working, mostly. A progress report came out Sunday from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It says the site has had hundreds of code fixes, and that its capacity is stable at its intended level. It can handle 50,000 simultaneous users. is the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act. It crashed when it rolled out Oct. 1. Some days it was down 60 percent of the time. Since then, a team of administration and contractor plumbers has been working around the clock to fix it. But the administration acknowledges the site remains a work in progress. The next hurdle comes Dec. 23. That’s the deadline for people to sign up for insurance to begin next year. (Associated Press)
  • The State Department has a permanent inspector general for the first time in nearly six years. Secretary of State John Kerry has sworn in Steve Linick. The former prosecutor also served as inspector general of the Federal Housing Financial Agency. The last Senate- confirmed State IG, Howard Krongard, left in January 2008. He was accused of interfering with an investigation into waste and corruption in Iraq. (State Department)
  • The head of a small agency charged with improving labor-management relations is stepping down. Federal Times reports George Cohen will resign from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service by the end of the year. Cohen will turn 80 years old. In a statement, he says his decision came before news of a Congressional probe. The House Oversight Committee is looking into charges of retaliation against a whistleblower. A senior manager says she was put on administrative leave after reporting abuse of government purchase cards. (Federal Times)
  • The military is readying a ship to destroy Syria’s most dangerous chemicals. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says the chemicals will be rounded up and transferred to the U.S. ship by the end of the year. Then, the military will neutralize them through a process developed by the Pentagon but never used in a real operation. The OPCW says the United States is modifying the vessel now. (Associated Press)
  • When it gets back to work next Monday, the Senate will again face an issue that’s had it stymied all year — the 2014 Defense authorization bill. The House passed its version in June. But the Senate has stalled because of a dispute between Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican members over amendments. The Hill reports the Senate has only a slim chance of resolving the bill this calendar year. Defense News reports Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin is pessimistic about a deal before both chambers disperse for the year on Dec. 13. (Defense News)
  • Two lawmakers are lobbying their colleagues on Capitol Hill to honor the forerunners of the CIA before it’s too late. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio) want the Congressional Gold Medal to go to the operatives of the Office of Strategic Services. They played a key role in World War II, spying on the axis powers and inventing special equipment like scuba gear. Of the original 13,000 employees, it’s thought that a few hundred are still living. Many of them are in their nineties. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor given to civilians. This year, it went to Native American code talkers for the role they played in World War II. (Associated Press)