Monday federal headlines – May 19, 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.

  • Robert Petzel has resigned as undersecretary for health in the Veterans Affairs Department. His departure came after a day of contentious Senate hearings on alleged mistreatment of veterans trying to get appointments at VA hospitals. Petzel had announced retirement plans back in September, but the timing of the departure was telling. Multiple whistleblowers have alleged staff at VA’s Phoenix hospital kept a secret waiting list of would-be patients. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough tells a Sunday TV talk show, President Obama is mad as hell about goings on the VA. But he stops short of calling for Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down. House Republicans vote Wednesday on a bill to give Shinseki greater power to fire or demote VA executives and administrators. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama plans to name Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan as director of the Office of Management and Budget. He’ll name San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to replace Donovan at HUD. Sources tell the Associated Press, Donovan is well-liked in the administration and that the President admires his management skills. Casto made what the administration considers an effective speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. If confirmed, Donovan would replace Sylvia Mathews Burwell. She is awaiting confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Associated Press)
  • Senators want to give the Homeland Security Department the ability to hire cybersecurity specialists faster than it can now. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Md.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, says a markup of such a bill will occur Thursday. Carper ways he wants to give DHS managers the same hiring leeway enjoyed by their counterparts at the National Security Agency. The House Homeland Security Committee has already passed a cyber workforce bill from ranking member Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.). It calls for DHS to develop occupation classifications for cyber workers throughout the department. Officials say they need at least 600 more cyber experts. (Federal News Radio)
  • Not many Americans use social media to find out about the federal government. But those that do, like the experience. That’s according to a first-ever survey about federal social media conduced by J.D. Power. A survey of 2,600 Americans shows about 14 percent use social media as their main source of agency information. They rate their experience at an average of 800 on a 1,000-point scale. The survey finds that when asked a question through social media, agencies answer about three-quarters of the time. Facebook is the most popular citizen-to-government medium. (J.D. Power)
  • Veterans Affairs employees have a new way to report fraud, waste or abuse. Following widespread allegations of mismanagement at VA health facilities, the Project on Government Oversight and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have set up a website. They say VA employees should report wrongdoing anonymously so as not to jeopardize their careers. The website has tools they say are secure and confidential. (
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California resumes business today after brush fires late last week forced evacuations. The fires burned nearly 22,000 acres on the base, more than one-sixth of its total land. It forced people out of their homes and offices. Some schools may remain closed. Marines helped San Diego County firefighters contain the blaze. From above, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing dropped more than 540,000 gallons of water on the fire. The causes of the fires are under investigation. (Marine Corps)
  • The Government Accountability Office warns NASA to do a better job of securing its sensitive technology. The report follows allegations of export control violations. GAO says the front-line administrators at NASA centers need clearer guidance from headquarters. And NASA needs to adopt a risk-based approach to oversight. The auditors say NASA needs to strike the right balance between sharing its resources as widely as possible, while guarding against national security risks. House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) says NASA is treating sensitive information “casually” and giving an opening for other nations, criminals and cyber vandals to take aerospace technology. (GAO)
  • The Energy Department has traced a radiation leak at its New Mexico nuclear dump to a waste container from Los Alamos. Pictures show the container had a cracked lid and showed signs of heat damage. Los Alamos officials say they are taking extra precautions with their containers. In a memo to staff, they say they don’t believe there’s any imminent safety threat. The New Mexico dump has been closed since mid-February, when the leak contaminated 22 workers with low levels of radiation. Containers at the plant contain items like gloves, tools and protective clothing worn by lab workers. (Associated Press)