Wednesday federal headlines – March 5, 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 promised 1 percent federal pay raise survived intact in President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget request. Obama did not call for federal employees to pay more towards their retirement. He asks for changes in the Federal Employees Compensation Act to save $340 million over 10 years and incentivize people to return to work. The proposal released Tuesday also aims, in its own words, to put a stop to short-sighted cuts to government operations. The budget faces a fight on Capitol Hill. Obama calls for $56 billion more than the spending cap Congress has already approved. Civilian and Defense agencies would each get half. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal employees are looking warily at health plan changes proposed in the President’s 2015 budget request. The budget blueprint calls for modernizing the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to save nearly $2 billion. One provision would permit insurers to lower premiums for healthier people. The American Federation of Government Employees says that would let them discriminate against the sick. The plan calls for federal health coverage to extend to domestic partners through a self-plus-one option. Congress has already approved that idea. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal labor unions give the White House budget for 2015 mixed reviews. They say the 1 percent federal pay raise is “woefully inadequate.” And the federal workforce is still at what the National Federation of Federal Employees calls “a tipping point” after years of budget constraints and low morale. But the American Federation of Government Employees says a $56 billion Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative would help restore money to discretionary programs. The National Treasury Employees Union praises proposed funds for more staff at both the IRS and Customs and Border Protection. It says the plan could give Customs an historic number of officers: 25,775. (NFFE, AFGE, NTEU)
  • Every budget has winners and losers. President Obama’s discretionary request of slightly more than $1 trillion for 2015 is up, but the increases don’t go across the board. Defense would see $400 million less, to a base budget of about $495 billion. Among civilian agencies, Commerce, Education, Energy, EPA, Justice, Transportation and VA would see increases. Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, HUD and NASA would see cuts. Interior’s budget would stay the same. (Associated Press)
  • The Obama administration wants what it calls a 21st century government. But agencies will have fewer technology dollars to build it with next year. Yesterday’s 2015 budget request calls for IT spending to drop by more than $2 billion, to a total of $79.1 billion. Civilian agency IT spending will be about level. Most of the cuts will come in the Defense Department. Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell says the budget plan supports President Obama’s management agenda. It calls for improvements in online services at the IRS and Social Security Administration, and it boosts efforts to make federal data more publicly available. (Federal News Radio)
  • Cybersecurity gets a big boost in the President’s 2015 budget request. Federal Times reports, Homeland Security would get $1.3 billion for cyber initiatives. That’s nearly double this year’s cyber spending. It’s about 3 percent of the agency’s budget, which is down overall. Among the larger programs, $377 million for new systems called EINSTEIN3 to incoming cybersecurity threats across government. Continuous monitoring hardware and software would get another $144 million. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would get $173 million for cyber-crime investigations, including identity theft and child exploitation. (Federal Times)
  • 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)
  • Western North Dakota isn’t a boom town just for oilers. Mailmen and women can make a mint, too. The Postal Service gives mail carriers pay raises up to 20 percent and $1000 bonuses. Newcomers will earn more than $21 an hour, plus benefits. The Postal Service says it will fill about 36 positions. Rapid population growth has led to long lines at post offices and late or undelivered mail. Donald Maston is executive committeeman for the National Rural Letter Carriers Association. He says even fast food restaurants in the area paid employees more than the postal service did before this agreement. (Associated Press)
  • Court martial begins for the man thought to be the highest-ranking officer to face trial for sexual assault charges. The jury will be seated today in the case of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair. Opening statements begin tomorrow. Sinclair maintains he’s innocent. The lead prosecutor left the case after his superiors refused to drop the most serious charges. Defense attorneys are seeking a dismissal. They say top Pentagon brass have interfered unlawfully. Sinclair was the deputy commander of the 82nd airborne division. He faces life in prison if convicted. (Associated Press)