Monday federal headlines – June 16, 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.

  • Spending on veterans’ health care could eventually double under the Senate’s version of VA reform. That’s the assessment of the Congressional Budget Office, which has scored a major title of the bill. VA now spends $44 billion a year on health care for veterans. But because the VA would turn partly into an insurance plan, CBO says many more veterans are likely to join the system. Add it all up, and the the cost of the bill could hit $25 billion in 2016. Ultimately, CBO says, that figure could rise to $50 billion a year — more than twice VA’s current spending. (Associated Press)
  • A computer crash is a little too convenient to believe for some in Congress who are investigating the IRS’ tax-exempt division. Yet that’s what the agency says happened to the computer of the former division director. The IRS says Lois Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011. It wiped out some of the emails the House GOP wants. Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa accuses the Obama Administration of playing games. His committee has requested all of Lerner’s emails from 2009 to 2013. Staff are looking for clues that others in the administration directed the agency to delay conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status. (Associated Press)
  • Supporters of a 2011 law say three years are long enough to wait for regulations. The law lets agencies give American flags to survivors of civilian federal employees killed in the line of duty. The Office of Personnel Management has yet to implement regulations on the seemingly simple law. It says the final version is undergoing clearance. Agencies do not have to wait for the final rules before handing out flags. But the Senior Executives Association, which pushed Congress to pass the law, says it’s unclear whether agencies are carrying out the law. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Federal Communications Commission is diving into a nasty Internet dispute. Chairman Tom Wheeler wants to dissect the routes that Netflix video content travels before reaching viewers’ television sets. Netflix service has become erratic in recent months. The company blames major carriers Comcast and Verizon for necking-down its traffic. Verizon says that at peak times, Netflix represents a third of the Internet traffic in the United States. The underlying issue is whether heavy content providers should pay extra for speedy service, and whether the government should regulate commercial Internet transactions. Wheeler has proposed what he calls an Open Internet rule that would block carriers from slowing down certain traffic. (Associated Press)
  • Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work launches a push to develop new technology that keeps the U.S. military ahead of everyone else. Defense News reports, Work is calling on industry to develop what he calls technology offsets. He’s been meeting with Defense Department insiders and industry executives. He’s expected to describe his vision publicly in the coming weeks. Work wants to ensure the U.S. maintains an overwhelming military advantage as budgets shrink. He says that since World War II, the U.S. has remained unchallenged thanks to its nuclear triad and development of network, guided munitions. (Defense News)
  • Nervous about developments in Iraq, the State Department is reinforcing security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Some staff members are being moved to more stable places in Iraq or to Jordan. A spokeswoman says that most of the staff will stay in place. Some 5,000 people work at the embassy. A violent insurgency group called ISIS has been taking over Iraqi cities and has promised to begin taking over the capital Baghdad. ISIS promises to begin by staging a series of suicide bombings there. (Associated Press)
  • Military officials say about 100 Marines and Army soldiers have moved into Baghdad at the State Department’s request. They are securing diplomatic facilities. Out at sea, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush to move into the Arabian Gulf from the northern Arabian Sea. It’s accompanied by a guided-missile cruiser and a destroyer. The Navy says the ships give President Barack Obama additional flexibility if he calls for military action in Iraq. (Navy)