Wednesday federal headlines – May 7, 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.

  • A dispute between the inspector general and political staffers at the EPA will play out before Congress today. Patrick Sullivan is EPA’s assistant IG for investigations. He’s expected to say the agency’s Office of Homeland Security operates illegally as a rogue law enforcement agency. He’ll testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Sullivan’s written testimony charges the Homeland Security office has refused to cooperate with the inspector general. The EPA’s deputy administrator, Bob Persiacepe, is expected to disagree. (Associated Press)
  • The EPA is asking some employees to return their retention bonuses. The agency has started the collection process with two staff members following an inspector general report. It questions a total of $670,000 in incentives paid to keep 13 employees. One staffer received the payments for four years, earning an extra $100,000 in that time. In 10 other cases, the agency could not show proof that the employees deserved the incentives. The IG launched the investigation after news broke that the EPA had paid a senior official a retention bonus for 10 years past the authorized date. (Environmental Protection Agency)
  • Military leaders trudge to Capitol Hill to once again make the case for trimming the growth in pay and compensation. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey says personnel costs must be part of a larger plan to meet sequestration budget goals. He’s joined by the service chiefs before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Dempsey says the Pentagon is trying to figure out how to properly train and equip troops while facing $1 trillion less in appropriations over the next decade. Dempsey and Navy Chief of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld stress, they’re not calling for pay cuts. But without slower growth in compensation costs, the leaders say they’ll have to keep reducing readiness. (Defense Department)
  • The leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee is trying to keep BRAC alive. Adam Smith will offer an amendment to the fiscal 2015 Defense authorization bill. It would let the Pentagon do a limited round of base realignments and closures to get rid of excess infrastructure and make the best use of the rest. The Defense Department would have to submit master plans and show it could generate savings within five years. In a statement, Smith notes the 2005 BRAC round “cost more and saved less” than expected, giving Congress “justifiable” doubts. (House)
  • The General Services Administration is asking the public to lay out a vision for government program managers 25 years from now. The agency says the challenge will start a discussion about how technology will change planning, project management, financial management and other key tasks of federal managers. It welcomes text, video and other submissions starting May 13. GSA’s Performance Improvement Council will judge the entries. (Federal Register)
  • A Republican senator accuses the Obama administration of a go-it-alone strategy on immigration after two agencies announce new rules for foreign immigrant spouses. The departments of Homeland Security and Commerce propose letting spouses of high-skilled immigrants work in the United States. Department leaders say the move will keep top talent in the country. The plan would affect fewer than 100,000 people. But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) accuses the departments of overreach on a hot-button issue. (Senate)
  • The chief operating officer of the Federal Housing Finance Agency faces a felony charge of threatening the former director. Richard Hornsby allegedly threatened to shoot Edward DeMarco, who retired last week. Hornsby was released and ordered to stay away from the FHFA and DeMarco. The Wall Street Journal reports, agency staff notified the inspector general after Hornsby made the threats last week. DeMarco was escorted to a secure location. Reports filed in court allege Hornsby promised to harm DeMarco and then kill himself. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Sixteen media organizations challenge the FAA’s ban on the use of commercial drones. They file a brief with the National Transportation Safety Board in support of aerial photographer Raphael Pirker. He was fined $10,000 for flying a video drone near the University of Virginia. He’s appealing. An administrative law judge ruled in March the FAA can’t enforce its policy against commercial use of drones. That’s because the agency hasn’t issued any regulations for that use. The news groups argue that newsgathering isn’t just a commercial activity. They say it’s a constitutional guarantee. (Associated Press)