Monday federal headlines – January 13, 2014

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.

  • Lots of things are changing at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Tim Love will become the new chief operating officer. He’s worked at CMS for 22 years. He replaces Michele Snyder, who retired in December. Dave Nelson is named the new chief information officer. He replaces Tony Trenkle, who left in November to join IBM. CMS is also replacing CGI Federal, the prime contractor on the troubled project. It hires Accenture to take over next month. Accenture built the California health care insurance exchange. The Washington Post reports, Accenture will get a one-year, $90 million contract. It was awarded as a sole source. (Federal News Radio)
  • Can you say “website problems” en Español? The Spanish version of is frustrating people just as much as its English-language counterpart. The site,, launched more than two months late. Critics say the translations are more Spanglish than Spanish. Volunteers say they are re-translating them for users. Just like with, federal officials say they’re working on the site, and they welcome constructive criticism. (Associated Press)
  • Call it “just-in-case” legislation. The House easily passed a bill requiring Health and Human Services to alert website users should any security breaches occur. The sponsors did not offer any examples in which personal data had been illegally accessed through Republicans say they don’t want the site to end up like Target, which has been late in telling shoppers that hackers accessed their credit card information in an attack shortly after Thanksgiving. (Associated Press)
  • Republicans say the House will vote to pass a three-day continuing funding resolution. That would give lawmakers the rest of the week to finish work on a $1 trillion appropriations bill for 2014. The current CR runs out on Wednesday. The final bill is being negotiated by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). Both sides say they are close. But still to be resolved is funding for Obamacare. (Associated Press)
  • Even though Congress hasn’t quite finished work on the 2014 budget, senior Pentagon planners are already hard at work on 2015. Their objective is to reverse the slide in research and development funding of the last two years. Defense News reports, Secretary Chuck Hagel tells service and other component leaders to beef up R&D spending by 15 percent in 2015. Dealing with budget cuts and sequestration, the armed services have kept maintenance and operations funded at the expense of R&D. But top leadership worries that will lead to a long term erosion of superiority. (Defense News)
  • Letting someone take a year off from work can be a good way to keep them for the long haul. The Navy is reporting success with its sabbatical program, particularly when it comes to female sailors. The year off lets them start families without risking career promotions. The services are experimenting with retention programs, especially as they open more combat positions to women. Personnel officials say they must keep mid-career female officers to mentor those on the front lines. (Associated Press)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department wants to streamline the process for vets to apply for disability. Veterans groups don’t like the plan. VA is proposing a standard form that all veterans would have to use. It would add incentives for those who apply online. Under current practice, any form of application will do, even handwritten on a napkin. VA says the variety of request formats hampers its ability to decide on the cases. The American Legion says a standard form would poison the process. (Associated Press)
  • We’ll find out Friday whether President Barack Obama will make big changes to National Security Agency surveillance programs. The President met last week with lawmakers, tech companies and an independent board reviewing the data collection practices. Chairman David Medine says the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board gave Obama a preview of its upcoming report to guide his decision making. That report will be released on Jan 23. Meanwhile, Chris Inglis, who until Friday was the deputy director of NSA, told National Public Radio the agency would welcome a public advocate at the secret intelligence courts. He likened the agency’s collection of phone metadata to an “insurance policy” against terrorism. (Associated Press)
  • The Supreme Court hears arguments on the President’s power to make recess appointments. The case pits the White House against Senate Republicans. Lower courts have sided with the GOP, saying President Barack Obama went too far when he appointed members to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau while the Senate was out. If the Supreme Court goes along with the lower courts, it could void hundreds of NLRB decisions made under those recess appointments. And it could make it nearly impossible for the President to fill vacancies if the Senate minority objects. (Associated Press)