Thursday federal headlines – December 19, 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.

  • President Barack Obama is expected to sign the two-year federal budget bill before he leaves for a Christmas vacation. The Senate passed the bill late yesterday. Nine Republicans joined the Democrats in approving the measure. Now it will be up to the House and Senate Appropriations committees to translate the budget deal into agency-by-agency allocations. The bipartisan agreement restores most of the sequester cuts for 2014 and 2015. Congress still has to deal with raising the debt ceiling sometime this spring. (Associated Press)
  • Now that the Senate has cleared a two-year budget deal, defense authorization is next. A final vote is expected later today. This version is a compromise between House and Senate Armed Services committee leaders. It includes some two dozen measures addressing sexual assault in the military. It also has a 1 percent pay raise for military personnel. It would pay for the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, and it would lift some restrictions on transferring detainees out of Guantanamo. (Associated Press)
  • A snow day doesn’t mean sledding and hot cocoa for federal employees anymore. In a new report, the Office of Personnel Management says most agencies now consider telework a key part of their emergency plans. The same report shows nearly half of all federal employees were ready to telework in 2012, a sizable increase over the year before. But that doesn’t mean all of them do it regularly. About 30 percent of those eligible worked outside the office at least once. (Federal News Radio)
  • Two department inspectors general issue long lists of 2014 projects that need fixing. At Health and Human Services, IG Daniel Levinson named healthcare insurance marketplaces as the department’s top challenge. The agency has been struggling to fix since the exchange launched Oct. 1. Levinson issued a report with 10 high priority items. At the Transportation Department, IG Calvin Scovel III fingers the NextGen air traffic control system. He says fixing its rollout problems and generally improving oversight of aviation are the top DoT challenges. (HHS/DoT)
  • 7 percent of IRS contractors owe back taxes, to a tune of $589 million combined. Most of the 1,100-some companies do not have plans to pay the money. The inspector general just released the report, although it’s based on fiscal 2012 data. The IG wants the agency to do annual tax checks of all contractors. The IRS says it doesn’t have the authority. (Associated Press)
  • The IRS says it needs 10 more days to prepare for tax-filing season. In a statement, acting Commissioner Danny Werfel says the IRS needs the extra time to get things right with its programming, testing and systems validation. So the agency will begin accepting tax returns on Jan. 31 rather than Jan. 21. The IRS blames the government shutdown in October for causing the delay, saying 90 percent of its operations were closed during those two weeks. The deadline for filing individual tax returns is still April 15. (Associated Press)
  • The advisory panel appointed by President Obama to study the National Security Agency has gone public early with its findings. The White House wanted to hold off release until next month. The panel is headed by Richard Clarke, a former federal cybersecurity official. It made more than 50 recommendations for NSA reform. The White House has already rejected some of them, including switching to a civilian agency chief. Still, the report points to sweeping change in how the NSA conducts surveillance. The depth of the agency’s reach became public from documents stolen and leaked by former contractor worker Edward Snowden. (Associated Press)
  • Just in time for the holidays, there’s new help for federal employees in need. The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) is launching a new fund in honor of the late employment lawyer Bill Bransford. It says the money will pay for grants. It will go to feds who would have trouble paying back even no-interest loans. Bransford died in October. The fund has about $30,000 donated from Bransford’s friends and law firm, Shaw, Bransford & Roth. (FEEA)
  • Boeing, the second largest defense contractor after Lockheed, has promoted four executives. Dennis Muilenburg, the head of its defense, space and security unit, is promoted to Boeing vice chairman. He’ll relocate to Chicago headquarters and function as the company’s number two executive. Christopher Chadwick moves into Muilenberg’s defense slot. He’s replaced with the promotion of Shelley Lavender. On the commercial side, Raymond Conner, head of Boeing’s airliner division, also becomes vice chairman. Boeing yesterday lost a $4.5 billion fighter plane deal for the Brazilian air force to Saab Defense and Security of Stockholm. (Boeing)