Wednesday federal headlines – March 12, 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.

  • New Thrift Savings Plan participants would be automatically enrolled in a higher growth fund under a bill the House debates today. Instead of the safe but slower growing G Fund, the bill would make the L Fund the default. The L stands for Lifecycle. It offers a different mix of five funds depending on the enrollee’s age. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It has the backing of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. Under current law, new federal employees automatically enroll in the TSP’s G Fund at a contribution rate of 3 percent of their salaries. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Office of Personnel Management launches a new plan to overhaul its information technology. In a blog post, Director Katherine Archuleta says the Strategic IT Plan will improve efficiency, accountability and innovation. It establishes a central project management office. It aims to overhaul retirement systems so annuitants get their payments electronically. The plan also includes a promise to upgrade the USA Jobs system. To get this all done, the plan adopts what it calls a human resources lifecycle IT framework. The idea is to have good systems to serve employees from when they join the government to when they retire. (OPM)
  • The nominee to lead the National Security Agency says he’s not sure a proposed change to the phone surveillance program is such a good idea. Navy Vice Adm. Mike Rogers says having a third party store metadata could drive up costs. And he says it could cause delays in identifying potential terror threats to the United States. Moving the data out of the NSA is one option being considered by President Obama. Rogers doesn’t need Senate confirmation to head the NSA. He needs it to receive promotion to full admiral so he can also take over U.S. Cyber Command. Senators also question Rogers about last summer’s breach of the Navy’s network. He says it was significant, but wouldn’t confirm if Iran was behind it. (Associated Press)
  • U.S. Special Operations may not be engaged in battle every day, but they’ll be busy. That’s the message Adm. William McRaven delivers to a Senate Armed Services subcommittee. Defense One reports, McRaven describes a future in which Special Operations is perpetually engaged. He envisions it helping allies improve their forces and preventing small problems from getting bigger. He says the United States alone can’t prevent the rise of extremism. Special forces are working in 70 countries. Since 2001, Special Operations has more than doubled to 69,000 troops. The price tag has quadrupled to $10 billion annually. (Defense One)
  • Two senators accuse the Defense Department of wasting more than $750 million on extra parts. The top Democrat and Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, Tom Carper and Tom Coburn, say the department buys much of that stuff “on order.” The solution: Cancel the orders. Use current inventory instead. The senators credit the department for trying to improve its inventory management. DoD had made progress in addressing the problem. But now it’s growing worse. The senators say that $750 million could be used for critical military needs. (Senate)
  • The long-time leader of the National Transportation Safety Board is stepping down to join an advocacy group. In a blog post, Chairman Deborah Hersman calls her tenure “a great ride.” She says she’s lucky to get a second “dream job” as the head of the National Safety Council, based in Chicago. Hersman has overseen investigations of more than 20 accidents, including the crash of an Asiana Airlines jet in San Francisco last year. Under Hersman, the five-member board has called for a ban on cell phone use while driving and lowering the legal limit for drivers’ blood alcohol. (NTSB Safety Compass)
  • The National Archives is closing three facilities — cuts that Archivist David Ferriero calls “painful.” The move will save $1.3 million a year. When an Anchorage, Alaska, facility closes, its records will be moved to Seattle and digitized. Employees will be offered jobs elsewhere. Two facilities in the same part of Philadelphia will merge. The Archives suggests staff there will have an easy adjustment. The third closure will be in Fort Worth, Texas. Again, two facilities will merge with little impact to staff. (Archives)
  • A stretch of California coastline becomes a battleground between the Obama administration and House Republicans over presidential authority. Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings accuses the President of using “imperial powers” to designate 1,600 acres along the Mendocino County coast as a national monument. Hastings says the House has passed a law to protect about three quarters of that land. The Senate hasn’t acted upon it. The President says the administration has involved all stakeholders in the process. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visits the area today. (White House)