Monday federal headlines – July 7, 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 Veterans Affairs Department says it’s reached out to nearly 140,000 veterans in the past two months to get them off waiting lists and into clinics for medical appointments. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson says the latest audit figures show improved patient access at 731 VA hospitals and clinics. VA says the number of veterans waiting at least 90 days fell by 11,000. The audit covers the month ending June 15t It shows a slowdown in the growth of vets who never got an appointment. (Associated Press)
  • ASM Research of Virginia receives a contract to modernize the VA’s electronic health records system. The three-year task order is worth $162 million. ASM will work on VA’s Vista and Enterprise Core Services systems. The company says it will also create a web access front-end for VA’s Computerized Patient Record System. VA awarded the deal under its T-4 indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract program. ASM Research is part of the consulting firm Accenture. (Federal News Radio)
  • Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says his department is gaining control over a surge of illegal immigrants on the Mexican border. But he is non-committal on whether many of the unaccompanied children will be returned to their home countries. Johnson tells NBC news, DHS officials have cut the deportation decisions from 33 days to four days. But he says a different process is needed for minors. He blames the poor conditions in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador as the main cause of the immigration surge. A top military commander tells DefenseOne, the immigrant surge is an existential threat to the United States. Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, head of Central Command, asks Congress for more money, drones and ships. He says they’re needed to help stem the flow of drugs, weapons and immigrants from Central America. (NBC/DefenseOne)
  • The Army paints a dire economic picture if it has to make worst-case reductions in force. The Environmental Command says local bases and surrounding communities would lose up to 80 percent of their civilian and military workforces. The Army is facing a possible reduction of 140,000 troops over the next few years. That could cost 16,000 jobs at Fort Campbell and an economic hit of nearly $900 million in Kentucky and Tennessee. Reductions at Fort Drum in New York would result in a $877 million loss. The projected losses double what the Environmental Command predicted last year. (Associated Press)
  • The Pentagon has grounded its fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Defense News reports, the groundings are a result of initial findings from an investigation into a fire that broke out on an F-35 during takeoff. The fire and grounding cast doubt on whether Defense officials will proceed with the European roll-out of the troubled jet. It’s supposed to take place at this week’s Farnborough International Airshow and Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK. The F-35 program office considers a competitive system to provide long-term sustainment of the jet, rather than relying on prime contractor Lockheed. (DefenseNews)