Thursday federal headlines – May 29, 2014

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear suspending the underwater search for a few months until more powerful sonar equipment arrives. It will search a much wider area — 21,000 square miles — based on an analysis of satellite data indicating the plane’s most likely course. The jet vanished on March 8.(Associated Press)

  • The uncertainty over sequestration was nearly as bad as the money shortage itself. A new post-mortem on last year’s budget cuts reveals communication breakdowns between agencies and the partners they fund. The Government Accountability Office says cuts at the Housing and Urban Development Department led public housing authorities to shave more than 2 percent of low- income households out of rent-assistance programs. Customs and Border Protection stopped fully staffing inspection booths which meant longer wait times at airports for international passengers. GAO says those agencies that already had taken steps to make their programs more efficient were in the best position to help recipients cope with the cuts. (GAO)
  • The White House is launching an initiative to boost scientific research on concussions. Military service members, athletes, parents and others will join President Barack Obama at a summit today. The NCAA and the Defense Department will pool $30 million into studies of concussion risks, treatment and management. The National Institutes of Health will begin research on the chronic effects of repetitive concussions, in part funded by the NFL. The National Institutes of Standards and Technology also will invest $5 million over five years to speed up development of materials that could better protect athletes, service members and others against concussions. (White House)
  • The Pentagon has dispatched 1,000 Marines to Libya aboard an amphibious assault ship. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Navy has sent the USS Bataan into the Mediterranean as a precaution. Both the Defense and State departments are worried about rising violence in Libya, especially in the capital, Tripoli. The State Department has warned Americans to leave immediately. Attacks have occurred on the Parliament and on the incoming prime minister’s home. A spokesman says the presence of the Bataan, with its contingent of Marines, gives a combatant commander extra flexibility should the U.S. need to intervene. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The National Park Service assembles a team to mark historic places and people in the country’s lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual movement. A panel of scholars will name sites to be considered as national monuments, national historic landmarks or listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Park Service says the study will help ensure it is telling a complete story of America’s heritage and history. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will launch the initiative tomorrow at New York’s Stonewall Inn where a riot took place in 1969. It is the only LGBT-associated site that the Park Service has designated as a national historic landmark. (Department of the Interior)
  • As the House takes up the Commerce Department’s budget request, there’s a snag over the Census Bureau. Texas Rep. Ted Poe is attaching an amendment to make responding to the American Community Survey voluntary. GovExec reports that opponents say this would cut response rates from 95 percent to 60 percent. The Census Project says lower response would make it harder for the government to calculate the distribution of $400 billion in aid to state and local governments. Poe says the federal government has no right to force Americans to reveal personal information they’re uncomfortable providing. (GovExec)
  • About 1,700 veterans in need of care were at risk of being lost or forgotten, the VA’s inspector general has found. In his report, acting IG Richard Griffin confirms reports of excessive waiting times. In Phoenix, where the report concentrates, the average wait for a first appointment is 115 days. The hospital had reported an average of 24 days. But Griffin says patient scheduling problems exist throughout the VA system. He says he’s expanded the investigation to 42 medical centers. Release of the report renewed calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. Those pushing for his resignation include the chairmen of the House Veterans Affairs and Armed Services committees and Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake. McCain says Attorney General Eric Holder should launch a criminal investigation into the VA. (Associated Press)
  • The chief of an Army medical center has been relieved of his command because of problems with patient care. The shake-up comes after two deaths of patients in their 20s this month. A March accreditation inspection found infection control problems at the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Sources tell the Associated Press, Army officials fired Colonel Steve Brewster and suspended three of his assistants. On Monday Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a 90-day review of the entire military health system. (Associated Press)
  • Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is asking for his own review of a large-scale release of illegal immigrants. He tells Congress he wants a deeper understanding of the issue. Johnson is scheduled to testify today before the House Judiciary Committee. Chairman Bob Goodlatte, of Virginia, and others have criticized last year’s release of 36,000 convicted criminal immigrants. They still face deportation. Johnson tells the committee, he’s determined to enforce the nation’s immigration laws and to keep the borders secure. (Associated Press)