Wednesday federal headlines – June 4, 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 group of four Republican Senators introduces a second bill to fix the Veterans Affairs Department. Led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the proposal would let veterans see private doctors if they have to wait too long to get into a VA facility. A similar bill has been introduced by Bernie Sanders (I- Vt.). VA is engulfed in a controversy over long wait times and falsified records at the Phoenix VA hospital. The new bill comes amid revelations of long wait times in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Arkansas. A new bill is also brewing in the House. It would require the VA to offer outside care when wait times exceed 30 days. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, sends a tough letter to acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson. It gives Gibson a week to answer a subpoena demanding documents relating to the delays. (Associated Press)
  • The White House considers the chief executive of the Cleveland Clinic to replace Eric Shinseki as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to the Wall Street Journal. Dr. Toby Cosgrove has been the head of the clinic for the past 10 years and met President Obama in 2009 when The Affordable Care Act was being created. President Obama called the clinic a model for how the country could move to a higher-quality, lower-cost health system. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The acting chief information officer at the General Services Administration, Sonny Hashmi, has been named the CIO, Federal Times reports. GSA did not say when he is to receive the official appointment. GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini says Hashmi’s experience with IT modernization and moving toward the cloud makes him a great asset to the agency. Hashmi succeeds previous CIO Casey Coleman, who left the post to become the new client executive VP at AT&T. (Federal Times)
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is urging President Obama to appoint a permanent director of the Patent and Trademark Office. The job has been open since February 2013, when David Kappos left. Michelle Lee, a former Google executive, has been the acting director since December. Hatch says her performance is not the issue. He says a confirmed director can have more policy clout and do more long-term planning. He notes the backlog of patent applications. It stands at more than 600,000. Hatch calls the vacancy “unfair, untenable and unacceptable for our country’s intellectual property agency.” (Federal News Radio)
  • President Obama unveiled plans Tuesday to spend up to $1 billion to support and train NATO’s armed forces in Ukraine and two other Western-leaning states on Russia’s borders, Georgia and Moldova. The eastern European members of the NATO alliance fear they could be next in light of the Ukraine crisis. Obama would be seeking the support of Congress for the plan. The White House also said it would review permanent troop deployments in Europe, falling short of requests by Poland and other countries to put troops on the ground. (Reuters)
  • Bid protests are mounting over the Federal Strategic Sourcing Inititiave. Now Congress is starting to pay more attention. Two members add an amendment to the House 2015 Defense authorization bill. It would require the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the effect of strategic sourcing on small business. Sparking the amendment is the General Services Administration’s latest offices supplies deal. Five companies have protested, saying it doesn’t give small companies a fair shake. GSA has had to extend an earlier contract while protests hold up the new one. Under strategic sourcing, the government tries to consolidate purchases of common items to have better bargaining power. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Merit Systems Protection Board has upheld agencies’ decisions to furlough employees 100 percent of the time. This is for all of the cases that have been adjudicated on their merits and does not include any cases dismissed, rejected or suspended. According to its annual report released at the end of May, MSPB has processed 2,000 consolidated appeals so far and expects to consolidate similar cases with common features as they continue to work through the backlog. (Merit Systems Protection Board)
  • The top military officer tries to contain spreading outrage over the deal to bring home Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the Army could still investigate whether Bergdahl is a deserter. Several of Bergdahl’s former colleagues say so publicly. Members of Congress are criticizing the deal because it led to the release of five top Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay. Hearings on the prisoner swap have already started. President Barack Obama apologizes to several members for not informing them of the deal ahead of time. The Wall Street Journal reports, The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday releases a propaganda video showing the handover of Bergdahl. (Associated Press)
  • Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that he will re-establish a task force combating domestic terrorism. The Justice Department created the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the Wall Street Journal reports. The group was set to reconvene on Sept. 11, 2001, but that meeting never happened. The group will be leaders from the DoJ, National Security Division, a member from the U.S. attorney community and the FBI. (Wall Street Journal)