Tuesday federal headlines – March 4, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Federal agencies in the Washington, D.C., area are open this morning, but under a two-hour delayed arrival. Employees have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. You should plan to arrive for work no more than two hours later than you would be expected to arrive. Non-emergency employees who report to the office will be granted excused absence for up to two hours past their expected arrival time. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House 2015 budget request will be on desks throughout Washington by lunchtime today. It’s likely to get picked over like a broiled trout. President Obama is asking for $56 billion more than a bipartisan Congressional agreement has already set as a spending ceiling. The President signed that deal. Senate Democrats have already said they’ll go by the agreement and proceed directly to appropriations bills. Obama has announced a four-year, $302 billion infrastructure spending plan. to boost spending on highways, rail projects and mass transit. Half of the initiative would be financed through corporate taxes, half from some spending stream yet to be worked out. (Associated Press)
  • The National Park Service says the two-week shutdown last year cost the nation at least $414 million. The agency releases a report to prove its worth. Director Jonathan Jarvis says the park service returns $10 for every $1 that taxpayers invest in it. Nationwide, the park service says it supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and generates nearly $27 billion in economic activity. The Park Service says visitor spending supports more than 12,000 jobs locally, including Washington, D.C., Maryland, northern Virginia and West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. (National Park Service)
  • The Pentagon halts military-to-military engagements with Russia to pressure Russian forces to pull out of Ukraine. Suspended activities include exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and conferences. But Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby says the U.S. is not changing its military posture in the region. He says the Navy is conducting routine, previously planned operations with European partners. (Defense Department)
  • Vietnam veterans sue the military over its treatment of their post-traumatic stress. The vets say the Army, Air Force and Navy failed to recognize that their disorders developed during their military service. They got other-than-honorable discharges. With that black mark, they could not get benefits. The lawsuit seeks class-action status. It accuses the Pentagon of refusing to re-evaluate Vietnam-era vets’ medical conditions, despite better understanding of PTSD. A Pentagon spokesman says the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation. He says it has taken steps to address concerns about the disorder, including assessing service members at military treatment facilities. (Associated Press)
  • New Mexico gives the Energy Department a deadline for dealing with nuclear waste now gathering above ground at the federal Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. A parking area at the plant serves as temporary storage for the containers of waste coming from federal facilities across the country. The plant’s underground dump remains closed following two accidents. A radiation leak exposed at least 13 workers and set off an air- monitoring alarm. Under New Mexico’s plan, the Energy Department has to develop an alternative storage plan if it keeps the facility sealed for more than three months. (Associated Press)
  • Telecom carriers are quietly pushing back against a proposed plan to have them store metadata on behalf of the National Security Agency. Officials at AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are telling the Obama administration they don’t want to become spy data miners. Having third party storage of phone records is one of four options the Obama administration is considering. The NSA has been under fire from privacy advocates for foreign surveillance it conducts using the data. The companies’ stance is a change for the carriers. Since World War II, phone and telegraph companies cooperated with the government’s requests for records. (Associated Press)
  • The Justice Department is suing Sprint Communications for $63 million. Prosecutors say Sprint overcharged agencies $21 million for court-ordered wiretaps. Justice is seeking treble damages. The suit alleges Sprint bilked the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other agencies. A 1994 law required carriers to upgrade their equipment so they could comply with wiretapping orders. It took until 2006 for the FCC to rule the government didn’t have to pay for the upgrades. The Justice suit alleges Sprint charged for them anyhow from 2007 to 2010. (Associated Press)