Thursday federal headlines – May 1, 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 might revive an office that provides lawmakers expert advice on technology and science issues. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) proposes taking $2.5 million from the House historic buildings fund to restart the Office of Technology Assessment. OTA was Capitol Hill’s personal technology think tank since the 1970s, until it was shut down during a wave of budget cuts in the mid-1990s. Holt already tried to restart the agency back in 2011. He said he can’t tell if he will have more political support this time around. (Federal News Radio)
  • Two Senators move to stop agencies from paying bonuses to employees with discipline problems. It’s called the Stop Wasteful Federal Bonuses Act. It was introduced by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). Both say they were outraged by reports the IRS paid nearly $3 million in bonuses to employees with conduct violations. The bill would bar such bonuses, and also those for employees who violate agency policy. The bill features a clawback. Employees receiving a bonus and later found to be a violator would have to return the money. (Senate)
  • The House passes a bill to get rid of bonuses for executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Washington Post reports the VA is criticizing the bill because it might hurt the department’s recruitment efforts. The vote comes on the heels of a report Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) presented to the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Cole says VA Secretary Eric Shinseki already has the authority to deny bonuses for poor performance. Shinseki hass also proven he’s willing to use it. Shinseki denied bonuses to the entire Veterans Benefits Administration Senior Executive team for its limited ability to reduce the disability claims backlog. (Washington Post)
  • The Office of Personnel Management’s innovation lab needs to prove it’s worth keeping around, according to the Government Accountability Office. GAO says it doesn’t have performance metrics to show how much the ideas coming out of the lab are actually helping other agencies. GAO says many federal agencies don’t even know there’s a growing community of innovative thinkers across the government. OPM says it’s taking steps to make sure the work done in the lab is available for other agencies through weekly training sessions on best practices. (Government Accountability Office)
  • Twenty federal buildings are winners of the General Services Administration’s Design Awards. Every two years, GSA honors buildings it claims will raise the bar for federal investments in architecture and energy conservation. The awards were decided by a jury of private sector professionals. This year, they reviewed more than 80 entries. The Dwight Eisenhower Executive Office building next to the White House is the only winner from the Washington, D.C., metro area. (General Services Administration)
  • The Pentagon is pushing for a 2.2 percent increase in secret programs for 2015. That’s despite the total non-war, or base budget, staying flat. With a base budget of $496 billion for 2015, DoD wants close to 12 percent of it, or nearly $54 billion, for secret programs. Bloomberg Government analysts say the Pentagon will request even more secret program money in its war budget. The so-called overseas contingency fund request for Afghanistan won’t come out until May 23. Secret programs include classified, special access and military intelligence activities. Details are mostly, well, secret. (Bloomberg Government)
  • The Pentagon’s top two intelligence officials are quitting. The Defense Department says Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is stepping down as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency because of conflicts with other leaders in the intelligence community. DoD officials say Flynn was too aggressive with plans to change how the agency runs. DIA’s civilian deputy director, David Shedd, is also stepping down. The Pentagon says his departure is unrelated to the problems surrounding Flynn. Both are planning to retire in early fall. No word yet on who will replace them. (Associated Press)
  • The Senate confirms Robert Work to serve as the next deputy secretary of Defense. He currently works as the chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security. Work also served as the undersecretary of the Navy between 2009 and 2013. His entire career in the Defense Department spans almost 30 years. He replaces Christine Fox. She served as acting deputy secretary when Ashton Carter stepped down at the beginning of December. (Defense Department)
  • FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is on the stump, defending forthcoming Internet regulations. Wheeler has proposed letting carriers charge high-volume content providers more for priority service. But he tells The Cable Show that doesn’t mean they’ll be allowed to push users to a slow lane. He says prioritizing some traffic by slowing down the rest of it won’t be permitted. The proposed rules won’t be made public until May 15. But already user groups are warning they’ll take to social media to oppose them. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says the rules would favor the rich and powerful. (Associated Press)