Friday federal headlines – April 18, 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.

  • Congress is questioning new rules for the Combined Federal Campaign. House members on both sides of the aisle have written to the White House. They say it doesn’t appear the Office of Personnel Management listened to the concerns of charities, donors and watchdog groups when the agency finalized the rules. Beginning in 2016, charities will have to pay to participate in the CFC. That’s hardest on the smaller organizations. The rules also call for an end to cash donations and pledges made on paper. The lawmakers suggest the federal workforce is not ready for that change. They ask the Office of Management and Budget to reconsider the public comments and pilot some of the changes before implementing them. Last year, CFC pledges dropped 19 percent from 2012, to $210 million. (Federal News Radio)
  • The University of Maryland’s online University College rolls out a new discount program for federal employees. The school will offer a 25 percent discount on out-of-state tuition, at both the undergrad and graduate level. It applies to federal employees and their families, as long as they are not Maryland residents. The Office of Personnel Management worked out the deal. Director Katherine Archuleta tells agency HR officials, this is a way to close skill gaps and make federal employment more attractive. She says subject-matter experts from the federal government are helping to develop curricula for the school. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
  • The number of Navy officials charged in a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme is now up to four. Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug was arrested in San Diego and made a court appearance yesterday. Prosecutors allege that Layug, a logistics specialist based in Japan, revealed classified information to a Singapore-based defense contractor in exchange for cash, electronics and a luxury vacation. Previously, three other Navy officers were arrested in the case, leading to a Congressional probe. (Associated Press)
  • The Army is embarking on a major solar energy project. This week officials announced plans to begin development of a solar array at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. It will be the largest DoD solar array on a military installation. It’s a joint effort between the General Services Administration, the Army’s Energy Initiatives Task Force, Tucson Electric Power and developer E.ON Climate and Renewables. A groundbreaking is set for April 25, and commercial operations will begin later this year. Richard Kidd, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for energy, says the effort establishes a new path for innovative energy partnerships going forward. (Army)
  • The Defense Department is considering deploying more ground troops to Poland. The possibility comes in the wake of meetings Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel held with Poland’s Minister of National Defense yesterday. Tomasz Siemoniak came to Washington from Poland this week to discuss ways the two countries could work together, particularly as concerns rise about the situation in the Ukraine. Hagel says U.S. and NATO warplanes would continue to rotate through Poland and that American fighter aircraft deployed there would remain in place for the rest of the year, Politico reports. (Defense Department)
  • Thirty finalists are vying to win the DoD’s highest honor for employers of National Guard and Reserve members. The 2014 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Awards will be doled out at a September ceremony. The DoD selected the 30 finalists from almost 3,000 nominations, submitted by military members. Up to 15 of the employers will be honored. Ronald G Young, executive director of the DoD office in charge of the awards, said the finalists have gone above and beyond in providing support to service members and their families. (Defense Department)
  • The Commerce Department will open an office in Myanmar, also known as Burma. It’s part of a new push for American exports. Secretary Penny Pritzker says it’s one of five countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa where the department is staffed for the first time. Other posts in Asia will grow. The International Trade Administration will run the offices. All told, it will hire 68 employees. Pritzker says the moves support President Barack Obama’s pledge to deepen economic ties with Asia. In Africa, new offices will open in Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Mozambique. (Commerce Department)
  • The U.S. Marshals Service will sell more than $5 billion worth of confiscated property related to a New York terrorism case. A federal judge has approved the plans. The Marshals will put a 36-foot Manhattan skyscraper on the auction block. The owners secretly funneled revenue from it to a state-owned Iranian bank, in violation of U.S. law. The Justice Department calls it the largest terrorism-related forfeiture ever. It stems from a deal between the federal government and victims, including family of those killed on 9/11. The government will receive reimbursement for legal expenses and costs of the sales before distributing the rest of the money to victims. (Associated Press)