Friday federal headlines – July 18, 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.

  • The largest EPA employees union barks back at Administrator Gina McCarthy. She testified she needs more flexibility to fire poor-performing employees. The American Federation of Government Employees tells McCarthy, she needs to instead hold managers and senior staff more accountable for their behavior. In a letter, the union says the EPA management has a country club mentality. It says management is the cause of most problems in the agency. Earlier, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) complained that employees caught watching pornography online during work hours weren’t fired on the spot. (Federal News Radio)
  • A Homeland Security Department plan to work with a controversial provider of background checks has set off alarm bells on Capitol Hill. It’s also led to an unusual alliance between Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R- Okla.). They say Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of DHS, has awarded a contract to USIS for field office support services. The lawmakers question the deal in a letter to Secretary Jeh Johnson. The Justice Department has sued the company for allegedly faking more than 600,000 background checks on applications for security clearances. (House)
  • The apparent shoot-down of an airliner over Ukraine sparks action across the U.S. government. President Obama offers U.S. help in determining definitively what brought down the Malaysia Airlines 777. He speaks by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Intelligence community officials assess the situation, concluding a surface-to-air missile caused the crash. Secretary John Kerry says the State Department is trying to find the identities of any Americans aboard the flight. The FAA says U.S. carriers voluntarily agree not to operate near the Ukraine border or over its territory. (Associated Press)
  • Deputy Attorney James Cole tells a House panel, he heard about lost emails at the IRS from news reports, not from the IRS itself. He testifies about progress Justice is making in an investigation of political bias allegations at IRS. Republicans are calling for a special prosecutor. They chastise Cole for a long period of silence since President Obama ordered the investigation. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama’s White House has been consistently late in delivering its annual budget requests. The House tries a stick approach to speed things up. GovExec reports, that stick is in the 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill approved this week. It withholds more than half of the money for the Office of Management and Budget until the 2016 budget is delivered. The deadline is Feb. 2 of next year. That means OMB wouldn’t get its full funding until 123 days into the fiscal year. That is, if it’s on time. (GovExec)
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee passes a Defense spending bill for 2015. Defense News reports, it provides about $490 billion in base spending and $58 billion for overseas contingency operations. It keeps alive some weapons military planners hoped to retire. It cuts the administration’s information technology spending request by tens of millions of dollars. The bill faces tough- going in the full Senate. (Federal Times/Defense News)
  • The scene of the Navy Yard shootings will reopen as a workplace in February. Vice Adm. William Hilarides says he expects all 2,700 employees to be back in Building 197 by the end of April. Hilarides leads Naval Sea Systems Command, which was headquartered in that building. When it reopens, it will be renamed for Joshua Humphreys, who designed the first Navy frigates. A defense contractor shot and killed 12 colleagues at the building in September. Since then, it has been renovated. Employees have been working from other locations in the Washington area. (Associated Press)
  • It looks as if national security leaker Chelsea Manning will start getting gender change treatment. The Army private is serving a life sentence in military prison for disclosing thousands of classified documents. Manning says she is convinced she’s a woman in a man’s body. The Federal Bureau of Prisons rejects the Pentagon’s request to transfer her to civilian prison, where she could presumably get better sex-change treatment. Her lawyer says Manning is safer in military prison. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel authorizes basic hormone therapy. But military officials say they can’t provide the latest and best treatment. (Associated Press)