Thursday federal headlines – May 22, 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 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has found another idea for the Postal Service to save money. It advanced a bill, largely on party lines, to change the delivery system for 1.5 million addresses each year for the next 10 years. Instead of getting walk-up delivery, residents of those addresses would go to centralized clusters of mail lockboxes. Or they would get curbside delivery. Committee Chairman Darrel Issa (R- Calif.) estimates that would save USPS $2 billion a year. A fact sheet on the bill says that, at $73 apiece, the Postal Service would recoup the cost of the clustered mailboxes in five months. Fewer than one percent of addresses would be converted each year. (House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform)
  • The Federal Protective Service will no longer coordinate and oversee security for Homeland Security’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. Yet the service is part of DHS. That irony has caught the eye of Congress. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) is chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management. In a memo, he wonders whether DHS is losing confidence in its own agency. Federal Protective Service director Eric Patterson says the change was a contract management move, not a loss of confidence. The service has been stung by repeated Government Accountability Office reports of poor performance and training. (Federal News Radio)
  • House Democrats and Republicans united to give the Veterans Affairs Secretary more authority to fire or demote senior executives. The 390 to 33 vote came in the aftermath of hearings exploring allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals. The department’s inspector general says it’s investigating 26 facilities nationwide. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) charges, VA officials presiding over mismanagement or negligence too often receive bonuses or high performance ratings. The bill bypasses existing procedures for demoting members of the Senior Executive Service. The bill now heads to the Senate. (Associated Press)
  • Armed security forces at a nuclear missile base failed a drill last summer. The drill simulated the hostile takeover of a missile launch silo. That’s according to an Air Force document obtained by the Associated Press. It says the security troops failed to quickly regain control of the captured nuclear weapon. The Air Force called failure in the drill a critical deficiency. And it’s the reason the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana flunked its security and safety inspection. The report was heavily redacted before AP obtained it. But is says the drill was repeated two months later and went off without any problems. (Associated Press)
  • New statistics suggest agencies are taking a tougher stance with bad contractors. The Government Accountability Office charts a doubling of suspensions and debarments at six agencies in a single year. The numbers are even more dramatic when you look at the past five fiscal years. From 2009 to 2013, suspensions and debarments rose from 19 to 271. GAO says the agencies have addressed staffing issues made it easier to report fraud or misconduct related to grants and centralized their processes. Auditors studied the departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Justice, State, Treasury and FEMA. (GAO)
  • The House is expected to vote today to curb one of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. The bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, would end the agency’s bulk collection of American phone metadata. Instead, phone companies would keep the records for 18 months. The NSA would be able to search them in terror investigations if there’s a judicial order. The bill represents a compromise between the Judiciary Committee — which wanted more changes — and the Intelligence Committee, which has stood by the NSA. The White House supports the bill. (Associated Press)
  • The House looks likely to pass today a defense authorization bill wildly unpopular at the Pentagon. In an election-year nod to hometown interests both Republicans and Democrats are expected to support the bill. The $601 billion measure would keep planes, ships and military bases that the Defense Department would like to cleave to protect military readiness. It wants to retire old aircraft programs including the A-10 Warthog and the U-2 spy plane of the Cold War era. The White House has threatened a veto. Tucked into the mammoth bill are measures that seem to have little to do with the military. A bipartisan coalition is hoping to attach the FITARA measure. It’s a bill to change the way agencies do information technology. (Associated Press)