Tuesday federal headlines – June 3, 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 new head of the Veterans Affairs Department says he will use all available authority to swiftly and decisively address issues of willful misconduct or mismanagement. On his first day in the job, Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson tells employees to get veterans off of waiting lists and into clinics right away. He says the VA will work with veterans service organizations, Congress and others to move forward. Gibson also thanks VA employees for their service to veterans. He notes that the quality of healthcare overall remains strong and gets good customer service ratings. (Veterans Affairs)
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he’ll fast-track Veterans Affairs reform legislation. The bill is sponsored by Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. It would give the VA authority to immediately remove senior executives based on poor job performance, but preventing what Sanders calls wholesale political firings allowed in a House bill. Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, urges the Senate to approve the House-passed bill as its stands. The Senate bill also would allow veterans who can’t get timely appointments with VA doctors to go to community health centers, military hospitals or private doctors. It would authorize VA to lease 27 new health facilities in 18 states. (Associated Press)
  • Letitia Long says she’ll retire as director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, after 35 years of federal service. She set her departure date for early October. She’ll be succeeded by Robert Cardillo, also a career employee. He is currently the deputy director of national intelligence for intelligence integration. Long says she is pleased with the progress NGA has made in making its vast data stores easy to navigate and use. She says she’s managed to reverse what used to be a time ratio of 75 percent looking for data and 25 percent using it. (Federal News Radio)
  • The IRS will have a new tool to help it collect taxes from Americans with overseas bank accounts. Treasury officials say 77,000 foreign banks and other financial institutions have agreed to share account information. Earlier this week Treasury announced a crackdown on offshore tax evasion. The overseas banks will start sending information in 2015. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act has been law since 2010. Under the law, foreign banks that don’t agree to share information with the IRS face steep penalties when doing business in the U.S. American banks have to withhold 30 percent of certain payments to foreign banks that don’t participate in the program. (Associated Press)
  • Military acquisition officials are redoubling efforts to improve service contracts. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus promises “radical” changes following a major contracting scandal. The Navy plans to cut service contract spending by $2.5 billion. Army and Air Force officials say they are focusing on efficiency through strategic sourcing and data collection. They say they need to better understand what commands are buying. Most service contracting is done at the local level rather than at the Pentagon. Overall, the military spends more on services than products. (Federal News Radio)
  • DARPA will return to DEF CON, the big Las Vegas cybersecurity conference. But not for another couple of years. Last year, after Edward Snowden leaked thousands of documents about federal surveillance, organizers of DEF CON kicked out the federal government wholesale. But the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says its Cyber Grand Challenge will have its final rounds take place at the 2016 DEF CON. DARPA bills the challenge as a first-of-its kind. Thirty teams will compete using the cyber equivalent or robots — machines that simulate the real world of bot-nets and automated responses. (DARPA)
  • Army Gen. Martin Dempsey welcomes back the only U.S. prisoner-of-war from the last decade but leaves open the possibility of prosecution. The Joint Chiefs chairman posts a message on Facebook in response to concerns about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Dempsey says questions about how Bergdahl was captured are separate from efforts to save him. He says this was likely the last, best opportunity to free Bergdahl, who is now at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. Dempsey says Army leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. The Obama Administration freed five detainees from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl. (Facebook)
  • President Barack Obama says the flood of child migrants who are crossing the Mexican border illegally and alone represent an “urgent humanitarian situation.” In a memo to agency leaders, he says the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate, will lead a coordinated federal response. The Obama administration is asking Congress for $1.4 billion more for the Health and Human Services program that serves child migrants. Authorities at the southwest border have stopped 47,000 children in the past 8 months. (Associated Press)