Thursday federal headlines – May 15, 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.

  • Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says if reports of treatment delays, secret waiting lists and preventable deaths at a Phoenix veterans hospital are true, they are “completely unacceptable” to everyone. He is scheduled to testify before a Senate committee today. He also says he welcomes a White House review ordered yesterday. Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors has been reassigned to the VA. Meanwhile, a veterans advocacy group will announce a new effort to protect VA whistleblowers. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is joining with the Project on Government Oversight to launch the initiative. (Associated Press)
  • In 10 years of handling background checks governmentwide, the Office of Personnel Management has sped up the once glacial process. Now evidence is mounting that speed has come at the cost of quality. Missed red flags for national security leaker Edward Snowden and Navy gunman Aaron Alexis are two highly visible examples. The Pentagon concludes, at least 31 percent of OPM investigations received by its adjudicators contain deficiencies. founder Evan Lesser says OPM has focused almost exclusively on speed at the expense of thoroughness. The agency uses contractors to conduct at least half of the background checks. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Treasury Department’s Robyn East is the latest cabinet level chief information officer to leave. East says she plans to retire in mid-June and move to Jackson, Mississippi. She says Mike Parker will become acting CIO. Terry Halvorson, CIO of the Navy Department, will become acting CIO at the Defense Department. He’ll fill in for Teri Takai, who left earlier this month. Tech chiefs at Interior, Commerce, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and several others have left or plan to in the coming weeks. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House names Victor Mendez to become deputy secretary of the Transportation Department. He’s had the job in an acting capacity since last year. He joined in 2009 as chief of the Federal Highway Administration. Peter Rogoff is nominated for undersecretary for policy at DoT. The long-time Senate staff member has been federal transit administrator since 2009. Meanwhile Anne Rung, the policy chief at the General Services Administration, is leaving. She heads to the Office of Management and Budget as senior adviser. That could put her in a position to be nominated to head the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Christine Harada, now at Lockheed Martin, will join GSA to replace Rung. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Pentagon has moved about 200 Marines closer to what it sees as a “deteriorating” situation in North Africa. A spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, says the Marines are stationed at a Naval air base in Sicily, Italy, so they can respond quickly to any threat in the region. But they are not deploying to Nigeria. There, the military is using surveillance drones to help find the school girls kidnapped by the militant group Boko Haram. A senior U.S. official tells the Associated Press at least one Global Hawk surveillance drone is in use, as are manned MC-12 aircraft. (Defense Department/Associated Press)
  • The Pentagon is trying to transfer convicted national security leaker Pvt. Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison. But her lawyer says, not so fast. He wants Manning to stay in a military prison for her 35-year term. Attorney David Coombs says a civilian federal prison would be unsafe for his client, formerly known as Bradley Manning, who is transgender. Manning requires hormone treatments not available in military facilities. Coombs says Manning shouldn’t have to choose between the therapy and her safety. Defense officials say the Army is expected to meet with the Justice Department this week to discuss the matter. (Associated Press)
  • The National Institutes of Health moves to end what officials call a “blind spot in biomedical research.” It hopes to boost studies on females, and not just the human type. NIH is requiring researchers who want federal funding to report plans to study female animals and cells. Director Francis Collins says scientists rely too much on males. They are neglecting to study key differences that could lead to medical breakthroughs. Writing in the journal Nature, he says NIH will address the issue through changes in training, program oversight, application reviews and policy. It plans to use data-mining techniques to keep tabs on funded research. (National Institutes of Health)
  • The Postal Service says employees often hear a myth: “Don’t worry. My dog won’t bite.” The agency says its workers were attacked by dogs more than 5,500 times last year. The Postal Service is trying to raise awareness among dog owners. It’s declaring next week “National Dog Bite Prevention Week.” It says if a letter carrier feels threatened by a dog, its owner may have to pick up their mail at the post office. Houston is the most dangerous city for postal workers when it comes to dog attacks. Sixty- three happened there last year. The Postal Service counted 17 in Washington. (U.S. Postal Service)