Monday federal headlines – February 24, 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.

  • The White House wants agencies to make even more data available to the public. In a memo, the Office of Management and Budget suggests agencies hold back on releasing administrative data. That’s the stuff they already have to collect because of regulations or program demands. OMB says agencies resist because they either misunderstand the rules or think it’s too hard to comply with them. The memo offers tips on protecting the privacy and confidentiality of people, companies and others that provide the information. It sets a deadline of June 30 for progress reports. (Federal News Radio)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today will recommend a series of measures to trim future defense personnel expenses. The Wall Street Journal reports, they’ll include limit on military pay raises, higher fees for health care benefits, and less generous housing allowances. The proposals will also include a one-year freeze on raises for high ranking officers. The measures are sure to spark a fight on Capitol Hill. Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby points out, personnel costs represent 50 percent of the defense budget. Hagel is expected to steer clear of military retirement benefits for now. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Twenty-four Jewish, Latino and black veterans will receive the Army’s highest honor decades late. President Barack Obama will bestow the Medal of Honor on them next month. The Pentagon named the soldiers after a 12-year review of discrimination in awards. Congress mandated the investigation in a 2002 law, specifically telling the Pentagon to examine prejudice against Latinos and Jews. The investigation later expanded to include other minorities. Officials looked at the 6,500 recipients of the second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, to identify those who were passed over for the Medal of Honor because of their race or ethnicity. Many of the honorees have died. But among the survivors is a 68-year-old retired postal worker from San Antonio. Former Sgt. Santiago Erevia fought in Vietnam, as did former Sgt. Jose Rodela, also from Texas, and Melvin Morris, one of the first green berets. He retired from the Army in the 1980s as a sergeant first class. One of the ones being honored post-humously is Pvt. First Class Leonard Kravitz, musician Lenny Kravitz’ uncle. (Defense Department)
  • A federal proposal to clean up smoke from wood stoves has sparked a backlash from some rural residents and lawmakers. Manufacturers of wood stoves have also objected. The new rule would sharply reduce the amount of particulate new wood stoves produce. One company says no stove made today would meet the requirement. Wood stoves are a staple in many rural areas. They are economical and make attractive centerpieces in many homes. States such as Washington and New York already have adopted stricter emission rules. Last fall, New York led a coalition of seven states in a federal lawsuit. Its goal was to compel the EPA to adopt new emission limits on wood-fired boilers that heat water. (Associated Press)
  • Industry groups and Republican-led states are taking on the Environmental Protection Agency in the Supreme Court. Justices hear arguments today over an administration-backed rule covering the expansion of industrial facilities. It requires companies to find other ways to reduce the carbon they release. Environmental groups say that even if the court strikes down the measure, the EPA could still move ahead on the rest of its carbon program. Opponents say a win would give them weapons to fight every part of the proposed new rules. (Associated Press)
  • A federal law enforcement official says intelligence from a Homeland Security Department investigation helped in the arrest of a Mexican drug kingpin. The official requested anonymity from the Associated Press. The officials says a tip from Immigration and Customs Enforcement led to the location of Joaquin Guzman. He’s known as “El Chapo.” He was arrested in the seaside resort town of Mazatlan Saturday. Apparently it was an easy capture. Another unnamed official says no shots were fired. (Associated Press)
  • Good news for drug traffickers. The Coast Guard slashed its operating costs by a quarter last year because of sequestration. It’s the only U.S. military service that can arrest drug smugglers hundreds of miles off the U.S. shore. It lost Naval support too. The Navy decommissioned ships on drug missions in Latin America. It sent some of them elsewhere because of the increased emphasis on Asia. Coast Guard Adm. Robert Papp says U.S. interdictions fell 30 percent from the year before. He estimates that they tracked just one-third of the drug smuggling boats and planes that traveled the North-South corridor. He tells the defense industry in San Diego, the Coast Guard’s resources are “woefully inadequate.” The service’s operating budget returns to 2012 levels this year. (Associated Press)