Monday federal headlines – July 28, 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.

  • Weekend negotiations result in a tentative deal for reforming the Veterans Affairs Department. It was reached by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who heads the house Veterans Affairs Committee and his Senate counterpart, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The two scheduled a news conference Monday to give the details. Late last week the two bills were $15 billion away from an agreement still. (Associated Press)
  • The National Weather Service honored its longest-serving volunteer this weekend. Richard Hendrickson is 101 years old and has filed weather reports from his Long Island farm twice a day for the last 84 years. The agency estimates that’s about 150,000 observations in all. Hendrickson says he enjoys observing weather, and it’s what he does for his country. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
  • The government is as green as it’s ever been. The White House says nine percent of the government’s electricity use, on average, comes from renewables. Standouts include the General Services Administration where 46 percent of electricity use comes from renewables. The White House is pushing all agencies to use renewable energy for a fifth of their total needs by 2020. It wants them to pursue more performance contracts. The Defense Department has led the way in that. It has committed $2.2 billion to projects in which the providers build the facilities at no initial cost to the Department, and DoD promises to pay for decades of service. (Federal News Radio)
  • State Department workers assigned to Libya are now working from neighboring Tunisia. The military helped the last U.S. personnel evacuate Tripoli over the weekend. The Pentagon says the mission took five hours. Military aircraft, including F-16’s, accompanied the caravan of vehicles. The Marine security guards normally watching over the embassy left as well. Secretary of State John Kerry says “free-wheeling militia violence” in the Libyan Capitol prompted the embassy closure, the second in three years. (Associated Press)
  • A Senator urges the Transportation Department to get on with rules for carrying musical instruments on airplanes. A 2012 law requires DoT to finalize rules, but the department still hasn’t finished. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) cited his state’s many famous musical festivals. In one incident, a member of a Rhode Island band was delayed when an airline wouldn’t let him carry on his guitar. Musicians complain instruments stowed like baggage frequently get damaged. (Associated Press)
  • With new safety protocols in place, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resumes transfer of high-risk bio materials. The first lab to get back into business is one that works with tuberculosis. CDC Director Tom Frieden, along with the agency’s new director of lab safety, and a new working group vetted the lab’s safety plan. The working group is reviewing procedures at every lab in the agency. The CDC also is creating an advisory group of outside experts. It will look at the agency’s culture, as well as its safety procedures. Earlier this month, Frieden learned that two labs had improperly shipped samples of anthrax and the flu. Those labs remain closed. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says operating costs for the service’s newest ships will decline and become more normal over time. The Navy designed the littoral combat ships to have smaller crews and cost less than other surface ships. But the Government Accountability Office puts operating expenses at $79 million a year per ship. That’s one and a half times the yearly cost of a frigate, which is larger and carries more sailors. Mabus says the government watchdog is always concerned about operating costs. He spoke while touring the USS Independence in Hawaii. It’s the second littoral combat ship to be commissioned. (Federal News Radio)
  • A contract protest decision holds up a big border security project. The Government Accountability Office rules that the Homeland Security Department must take another look at bids after a protest by Raytheon. The decision was made public late last week. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has awarded a contract in February for seven of 50 planned surveillance towers. The $145 million deal went to EFW of Fort Worth. Fourteen companies had a bid. Among other things, Raytheon alleged EFW got credit for past performance of an affiliated company, not EFW itself. (Government Accountability Office)
  • The head of the National Defense University has stepped down amid an investigation into a poor command climate. Maj. Gen. Gregg Martin held the position for two years. During his tenure, Martin made tenured faculty and other staff bristle by ordering an overhaul of the university’s structure. For now, he has taken another job with the Army’s staff at the Pentagon. University Vice President Wanda Nesbitt is serving as the acting leader until the Pentagon names a permanent replacement. (Federal News Radio)

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