Tuesday federal headlines – December 10, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Federal offices in the D.C. area are closed today. The Office of Personnel Management says emergency and telework-ready employees should follow their agency’s policies. Non- emergency employees get excused absences. If you do travel this morning, expect a slushy morning commute. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning through 2 p.m. for the entire region, with up to six inches of snow in some parts. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House and Senate Armed Services committees have reached an agreement on a 2014 authorization bill. Now Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, is urging Congress to pass it. The compromise would authorize just under $633 billion for base and wartime spending. It would increase military pay by 1 percent. It includes money for littoral combat ships and F-35 fighters. But it leaves out an amendment to change how the military deals with sexual assault cases. The fate of the bill now rests with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell wants separate votes on more amendments. (Associated Press)
  • The Navy is reviewing the way it contracts for port services as a corruption scandal widens. Several Navy officers have been removed, and some arrested, in connection with a bribery scandal that began with a long-time port services operator in Singapore. In a memo, Secretary Ray Mabus says commanders should let criminal investigators do their jobs. He has asked the auditor general to identify ways to improve internal controls on service delivery, administration and payments. And he’s told his team to look for more contracts in which the rules were not followed. All findings are due by next week. (Navy)
  • The Defense Department’s POW and Missing Personnel Office has identified a service member missing for 45 years. Investigators traced the remains of Air Force Col. Francis McGouldrick Jr. of New Haven through the DNA of a great nephew and niece. McGouldrick disappeared on the night of Dec. 13, 1968. His attack bomber collided with another plane over Laos. His remains weren’t found until 2012, and only identified now. He’ll be returned to family and buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery. More than 1,600 American service members are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. (Defense Department)
  • The military is transporting troops to the Central African Republic to help quell violence there. Flights from Burundi will begin in a day or two, but no other U.S. troops will be on the ground. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved the order from Afghanistan, where he is visiting service members. French officials had asked the U.S. to support their troops as they try to maintain peace between Christians and Muslims. Hours after Hagel gave his word, President Barack Obama taped an audio message urging calm in the African nation. (Associated Press)
  • Edward Snowden has done it again. He’s released another batch of secret National Security Agency documents. They show how American and British intelligence operations have been spying on electronic game players throughout the world. Reports based on the leaked papers appear in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian and ProPublica. The documents show NSA officials worried terrorists could use the online games messaging to exchange information. The most popular game, World of Warcraft, has hosted as many as 12 million subscribers. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama’s choice to head the Internal Revenue Service has his first Senate hearing today. John Koskinen is likely to face tough questioning from members of the Finance Committee. They’ll want to explore whether the agency can handle its part in carrying out the Affordable Care Act. And they’ll want to know how he’ll fix management problems that resulted in unfair application tax exempt rules. Koskinen was deputy OMB director under President Clinton. He also oversaw the year 2000 conversion of federal computer systems. He later served as D.C. deputy mayor. Koskinen led the overhaul of mortgage buyer Freddie Mac after it collapsed in the 2008 financial crisis. (Associated Press)
  • The National Institutes of Health has named its first associate director for data science. Philip Bourne, a chemist and educator from the University of California San Diego, is coming on board next year, replacing acting ADDS Eric Green. He’ll help the agency make sense of all its data. In a statement, NIH Director Francis Collins says datasets have grown exponentially in biomedical research. He says its vital that NIH play a major role in coordinating access to the data and analyzing it. (NIH)
  • Government auditors say reverse auctions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. At least, not in the way agencies are doing them. Vendors are supposed to bid against each other to see who can offer the lowest price for things like IT services or medical supplies. Many times, that’s not happening. The Government Accountability Office says agencies aren’t seeing much competition or savings from reverse auctions. Sometimes they end up paying two fees, one to use the contract and one to use the contractor’s services. GAO says the White House should issue government-wide guidance. Agencies spent $828 million through reverse auctions in fiscal 2012. (GAO)