Tuesday federal headlines – May 13, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wants to let all Americans join the federal retirement system. He’ll propose just that in a policy speech today. The Republican freshman is considering running for president. He’ll also propose overhauling all of the federal programs designed to help younger workers save for retirement. That includes raising the retirement age. Rubio will propose keeping the status quo for older workers, those 55 and older. His plan also would suspend the payroll taxes on those age 65 or older who continue to work. (Associated Press)
  • Fifteen House Republicans sign a letter calling for the resignation of three top Veterans Affairs officials. The letter is addressed to President Obama. It call for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, along with undersecretaries Robert Petzel and Allison Hickey. The reps, led by Indiana’s Jacki Walorski, cite recent revelations about avoidable deaths and the apparent falsification of waiting list records. They say in the letter that accountability must start from the top. Shinseki has vowed to stay on the job. So far he’s been backed by Obama. (House)
  • Agencies are taking orders to cut red tape to heart, but it may not be helping their missions. The Government Accountability Office looked at 22 agencies. Together they revised, clarified or cut 246 regulations. Agency officials say they made the rules more effective and easier to follow. But just 38 of those changes saved them the money they expected. By law agencies are supposed to assess whether the regulations help them meet their annual goals. Some tell the GAO it’s hard to establish those links. They suffer from competing priorities and a lack of data. (Government Accountability Office)
  • The General Services Administration is looking to make its governmentwide fleet of 200,000 cars safer. It signs a memorandum of understanding with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Federal Times reports, the goal is for GSA to learn about new safety technologies and which cars have them. That will eventually affect GSA’s purchasing patterns. The two agencies will also establish a research program to evaluate news safety systems and apply them to the federal fleet. (Federal Times)
  • The National Institutes of Health contracting arm launches a $20 billion governmentwide acquisition program. The new contract is called Chief information Officer Commodities and Solutions, or CIO-CS. It will have a 10-year lifespan and replace the Electronic Commodities Store contract. In their solicitation, NIH officials note that medical equipment is increasingly integrated into general IT systems. It wants CIO-CS products and services to reflect that. Bids are due June 11. But NIH cautions, it still must obtain Office of Management and Budget approval to operate a new governmentwide contract. NIH has run several other GWACs for more than a decade. (FedBizOpps)
  • Some sailors can leave the Navy two years early. The service is offering early separation to those in certain categories as an alternative to layoffs. It will make decisions based on quotas. Some of the categories include equipment operator, builder and ship’s serviceman. Sailors must have joined in the past 13 years. Those currently deployed or in the nuclear force are not eligible. (Navy)
  • What does it take to run a champion military commissary? The Defense Commissary Agency honors a handful in the United States and abroad for going beyond expectations in customer service, accountability, sales and safety. Agency leader Joseph Jeu says the achievements were even more notable in the last year, considering the hardships. He says the commissaries worked with industry partners and military stakeholders to excel, despite furloughs, budget cuts, hiring freezes and stressed-out customers. Naval Station Mayport in Florida, boasting fresh lobster, Filipino bakery items and sushi, was named the best large commissary in the United States. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, stock full of fresh pork and beef, was the best superstore. (Defense Department)
  • Government watchdogs say the Interior Department has failed to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells that could be at risk for water contamination and other environmental damage. The Government Accountability Office doubts the Bureau of Land Management can accurately and efficiently identify whether federal and Indian resources are properly protected. It says the agency bases its policies on outdated science and incomplete data. The findings come amid an energy boom and the increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The Associated Press got a copy of the GAO report before its public release. Meanwhile, the agency is assessing damage to a historic canyon in southern Utah. Protesters ignored a closure sign and rode their motorcycles and ATV’s on an off-limits trail. Many waved American flags. Some carried weapons. The local sheriff described it as peaceful. But the bureau is concerned that the riders might have damaged 2,000-year-old artifacts and dwellings in Recapture Canyon. The protest is the latest sign of growing tensions between rural residents and the federal government over management of public lands. (Associated Press)