Friday federal headlines – March 14, 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.

  • Problems in the nation’s nuclear missile ranks are more widespread than the Air Force has been letting on. The AP obtained documents showing bad morale and possible test cheating at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. The issues echo those already disclosed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. Nuclear missileers at Minot received failing grades on technical proficiency tests. But because support staff got high ratings, the unit received a marginal rating overall. That’s the equivalent of a D. An internal Air Force investigation shows repeated testing itself hurt morale. Some tests were administered without supervision. (Associated Press)
  • When the Defense Department seeks a vendor for its next generation electronic health record, the Veterans Affairs Department will be one of the bidders. NextGov reports, VA plans to enter the competition with its own EHR. Secretary Eric Shinseki tells Congress, a new version will be as good as any commercial product out there. It’ll be based on VA’s Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture and called Vista Evolution. Shinseki tells the Armed Service Committee, if DoD picks a commercial product, then VA would consider adopting that. The two departments have failed to come to a unified health record after years of trying. (NextGov)
  • A civilian defense contractor will plead guilty of giving military secrets to his Chinese girlfriend. Benjamin Bishop worked at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii until he was arrested a year ago. His lawyer says he’ll admit to sending the girlfriend classified documents describing the U.S. strategy towards China. An FBI affidavit says Bishop also disclosed plans for nuclear weapons and missile defense. Bishop is 59, his girlfriend 27. He says he shared the secrets for love, not espionage. (Associated Press)
  • Petroleum giant BP is back in business as a federal contractor. Under an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, more then two dozen BP business units are free to compete for federal business. The company had been suspended since November 2012. That’s after it pleaded guilty to criminal charges connected with the 2010 gulf oil spill. Eleven oil rig workers died when a BP rig exploded into flames. The company is a major fuel supplier to the Defense Department. It also regains the right to lease offshore oil fields. (Associated Press)
  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is still squabbling over a hearing last week. GovExec reports, ranking member Elijah Cummings says actions by chairman Darrell Issa have compromised the committee’s ability to hold a former IRS official in contempt of Congress. At the end of the hearing, Cummings wanted to make a statement, but Issa had his microphone shut off. Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS tax exempt unit, had just pleaded the fifth rather than testifying. Members believe Lerner holds the key to how the IRS came to discriminate against conservative groups seeking tax exempt status. (GovExec)