Monday federal headlines – February 3, 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.

  • Facing no growth in their budgets for 2014, IRS employees got some small solace from the new commissioner. John Koskinen says no one will be furloughed this year, as in 2013. Congress funded the IRS at $11.5 billion. That’s equal to last year after sequestration, but $1 billion less than 2010. Koskinen says the agency has already cut operations to meet the budget it has. He warns, IRS will have to forego “significant improvements,” planned for taxpayer services and compliance activities. (Federal News Radio)
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will post job ads once again, thanks to new money in the 2014 spending bill. It lifts a hiring freeze that had been in place since March. The agency had suspended hiring and staff development under sequestration. The National Weather Service Employees Organization has accused the agency of taking unnecessary risks by leaving field positions open. The union says the Weather Service has about 450 vacancies. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama orders a “soup to nuts” review of federal workforce training initiatives and pledges to copy the most successful ones. The job-training memo tells the secretaries of Labor, Commerce and Education to develop an action plan within six months. He says it should include more active engagement with industry, employers and others to identify skills in demand. The President took that message on the road. He visits a General Electric engine factory near Milwaukee and a high school in Nashville. (Associated Press)
  • When it comes to hiring new employees, President Obama is telling federal agencies what not to do. Namely, discriminate against people who are unemployed and having financial difficulties through no fault of their own. The directive is part of a larger White House effort to get Corporate America to hire the long-term unemployed. 300 large companies have signed a pledge to do so. Obama says that since the federal government is the nation’s largest employer, it should lead by example. (The White House)
  • has produced tens of thousands of errors. But the government has no way of fixing them. The Washington Post reports, mistakes include wrong pricing, putting people in the wrong insurance plan, or denying them coverage altogether. 22,000 people have filed appeals. The appeals are stored in a computer system unavailable to federal employees with the authority to rectify the mistakes. The Obama administration has kept the situation under wraps. Officials tell the Post they have no idea when the appeals process will become operational. (Washington Post)
  • Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale plans to step down. In a statement, he says he’ll wait until his successor is confirmed. President Barack Obama has tapped Hale’s deputy, Michael McCord, for the job. It’s not clear which man will be at the helm when the department releases its 2015 budget next month. Hale has managed the Pentagon’s finances for five years, making him the longest-serving defense comptroller since the 1950s. (Federal News Radio)
  • The armed services are putting extra effort into ethics training. They’ll start putting more emphasis on character when considering officer promotions. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, tells the Wall Street Journal, the effort has his full attention. DoD has been hit by a series of ethics problems. The Air Force is dealing with widespread sexual abuse and a cheating scandal in the nuclear missile force. The Navy has the Fat Albert bribery-in-contracting case. Dempsey says the ethics review is part of a normal, post-war introspection period. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Congress investigates Navy contracting practices as a bribery scandal unfolds. The office of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa says Navy Secretary Ray Mabus will brief lawmakers this week. Issa has asked Mabus for copies of Navy contracts with Leonard Glenn Francis, owner of an Asia-based ship husbanding service. Francis allegedly overbilled the Navy by at least $20 million. He’s accused of bribing Naval officers in exchange for favorable terms. Issa says it’s part of a trend that calls for closer scrutiny. The Navy is reviewing all port service contracts. (Associated Press)