Tuesday federal headlines – May 20, 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.

  • The Supreme Court will consider the case of a federal air marshal who was fired for leaking sensitive information. The justices agreed to hear an appeal from the Obama Administration. It claims Robert MacLean is not entitled to whistleblower protection. The Transportation Security Administration fired MacLean after he told a reporter the government planned to suspend overnight airline trips for marshals for a month to save money. MacLean says he spoke up only after his boss ignored his safety concerns. Once it became public, TSA said it was a mistake. It did not cancel any flight assignments. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has sided with MacLean, saying he could present a whistleblower defense. (Associated Press)
  • The White House threatens to veto the House version of the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill. In a statement, the Obama administration says some provisions would constrain the Pentagon’s ability to make good on its defense strategy while cutting costs. The bill does not include changes to military pay and benefits that the Pentagon wants. And, the administration says, it restricts the Defense Department’s ability to manage its weapon systems and infrastructure. The House is expected to debate and vote on the $601 billion bill this week. The Senate Armed Services Committee is beginning work on its version. (White House)
  • The Navy is sending one of its littoral combat ships to Hawaii. It will participate in Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, exercises in June and July. Navy Times reports, the move represents a reversal of an earlier decision to keep the USS Independence just off the coast of Southern California, along with the Navy’s three other littoral combat ships. None of the littoral combat ships took part in the 2012 RIMPAC. Navy officials hope the participation will help the troubled LCS program achieve new milestones and test the ship’s mettle. This year’s exercise will include two dozen foreign ships. For the first time, China is scheduled to participate with four ships. The Chinese will send a frigate, a destroyer, a replenishment ship and a hospital ship to Pearl Harbor. RIMPAC runs from June 6 to July 25. (Defense News)
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says it will hand out extra bonuses to employees who received low performance ratings. The Wall Street Journal reports, the agency wants to make up for what appears to be discrimination against minority, female and younger employees. A March investigation by the bureau found 20 percent of white employees received the highest performance ratings, but only 10 percent of blacks and 9 percent of Hispanics. It will hand out $5.5 million as compensation. The bureau also reached an agreement with the National Treasury Employees Union to scrap its 5 point employee rating system. Instead it will initiate a pass-fail system. A House hearing on the bureau’s personnel practices is scheduled for Wednesday. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • China wasted no time responding to Justice Department cyberspying indictments against five Chinese military officers. It suspended cooperation with the United States on a cybersecurity task force and summoned the U.S. ambassador. It called the espionage charges absurd. The indictment charges the Chinese officers with stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies, notably Alcoa, U.S. Steel, and Westinghouse Electric. China is unlikely to turn over the officers, and the countries have no extradition treaty. Experts say the Chinese are likely to issue countercharges. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Energy Department has traced a radiation leak at its New Mexico nuclear dump to a waste container from Los Alamos that was packed with kitty litter. There are 56 more containers thought to be potentially dangerous to public health and the environment. The state has given Los Alamos two days to come up with a plan for securing the containers. Many of them are thought to be stored outdoors on the lab’s campus or at a temporary site in west Texas. The New Mexico dump has been closed since mid-February, when the leak contaminated 22 workers with low levels of radiation. (Associated Press)
  • June 1 will be the kick-off day for the annual Feds Feed Families program. Led by the Agriculture Department, the governmentwide program last year collected 9 million pounds of food for poor families. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says he hopes to exceed that number this year. On the starting date, federal employees will find drop-off bins in their office lobbies for non-perishable items. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration awarded 225 contracts to 74 companies competing for slots on a big services deal. OASIS, or One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services, could be worth $10 billion over its 10-year life. GSA officials pointed out the Air Force has already committed to spending $500 million on OASIS. An industry source says losing bidders are likely to protest. The agency didn’t offer oral debriefs, or explanations of why they didn’t win. GSA left out some big names, notably CACI, General Dynamics IT and IBM. The agency made 220 awards under the small business version of OASIS in February. It plans kickoff meetings in July. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services moves to reduce fraud and abuse in its prescription drug plan. A new rule will require most doctors who prescribe medicine under Part D to enroll in Medicare by next year. The agency will revoke that enrollment if it finds a pattern of abuse. The agency also will increase distribution of some healthcare data. CMS estimates savings at more than $1.6 billion over 10 years. It says it considered more than 7,500 public comments. Agency officials testify on Capitol Hill today. (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)