Thursday federal headlines – December 5, 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.

  • Senate and House negotiators are close to a budget deal for fiscal 2014. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are working on a so-called small scale agreement. That means it applies only to this year’s discretionary spending but leaves tax hikes and entitlement reform for another day. Sources tell Defense News the final figure could come to $1 trillion, give or take $10 billion. It would partially offset sequestration with more targeted cuts. People close to the negotiations say some sticky details are yet to be worked out. But they expect a deal this week. (Defense News)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department is adjusting compensation and pension benefits next year to match the rise in the cost of living. That means beneficiaries will get a $1.50 more on every $100 they receive from the VA in 2014. It’s the same 1.5 percent raise that the Social Security Administration is giving federal retirees and social security recipients. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has raised the cap on contractor executive pay to nearly $1 million. The new figure applies to reimbursements for contracts in fiscal 2012, even though fiscal 2014 is more then two months old. The cap rose by $190,000 over the 2011 limit. In its notice, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy says it is following a formula enshrined in law. Congress has debated but didn’t change the formula. The White House had pushed for a cap of $200,000. Federal employee unions immediately denounced the new caps. (Federal News Radio)
  • The family of a Navy Yard shooting victim is suing the Navy. Mary DeLorenzo Knight’s kin say officials ignored signs that shooter Aaron Alexis had mental problems. And they say metal detectors would have stopped Alexis from taking a weapon into the Navy Yard to kill DeLorenzo Knight and 11 other victims. The lawsuit names the Veterans Affairs Department, where Alexis sought help in the weeks leading up to the shooting. It also names Alexis’ employer, the subcontractor The Experts, and the prime contractor, Hewlett Packard. The family is seeking at least $37.5 million in damages. DeLorenzo Knight worked in cybersecurity at the Naval Sea Systems Command. (Associated Press)
  • President Barack Obama will order federal agencies to triple their use of renewable sources of electricity. He’s expected to make the announcement in an executive order today. It would require agencies to get 20 percent of their power from wind and solar sources by 2020. The order will come as part of a larger administration plan to tackle climate change in the three years Obama has remaining in office. (Associated Press)
  • Think of it as Four-Square on a really big scale. The latest revelation of National Security Agency surveillance has been published in the Washington Post. It shows the NSA collecting location information on billions of cell phones every day. That includes phones carried by Americans traveling abroad. Agency analysts apply algorithms to terabytes of data to try and correlate phones belonging to terrorist suspects. The Post reports the program is known as co-traveler. The information comes from documents leaked by Edward Snowden. (Associated Press)
  • The Postal Service has angered some of its most ardent fans. It’s releasing a stamp of the young British wizard Harry Potter in hopes of convincing digital natives to pay attention to stamps and old-fashioned letters. But some stamp collectors say the choice is too commercial and un-American. Now the agency inspector general is asking the public to weigh in. In a blog post, the office asks for opinions on whether the Postal Service should market to a younger audience and whether it should develop themes and images that stray from American icons. (USPS Inspector General)
  • The Public Printer says her agency should change its name but keep its initials. Davita Vance-Cooks made that pitch to lawmakers at a House committee hearing on the Government Printing Office in a post-print world. She says GPO should stand for Government Publishing Office. Vance-Cooks says 95 percent of government publishing happens digitally. GPO has a plethora of digital products, including apps and e-books. (House Committee on House Administration)