Tuesday federal headlines – July 1, 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 White House is preparing an executive order offering transgender federal workers formal protection from discrimination at work. The order is symbolic. Last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on gender identity. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed a memo saying the government shouldn’t discriminate against people for reasons unrelated to their job performance. Obama announced the order during a reception for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama acknowledges that Congress won’t pass an immigration reform bill this summer. He promises to do what he can using executive powers. He directs the Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to redirect money and people to keep criminals from crossing the border. And to think of ways the administration can fix immigration on its own. The president is calling on Congress to enact a less comprehensive bill to deal with the thousands of unaccompanied minors from South America. (White House)
  • The Social Security Administration has helped the White House develop a plan to cut red tape and improve customer service across government. The plan identifies some of the most frustrating experiences for the public as TSA security screening, veterans applying for pensions and disability, and seeking help on taxes. It says fragmentation and silos within the government have made it hard to define what good customer service is and how well agencies do it. Some remedies include a network for employees to discuss customer service, a nationwide award program for feds who excel at it and agency executives getting out into the field to listen directly to customers. (Performance.gov)
  • Americans headed to the beach this weekend might be wondering if they can trust signs saying it’s safe to swim. The EPA and several state officials are arguing over EPA’s bacteria pollution standards. The federal government wants to lower the thresholds for warning the public about contaminated beach water. Great Lakes and coastal authorities say the revisions could scare away swimmers. If they don’t use the new, lower standards, local beach officials could lose federal grants. A Michigan toxicologist says there’s not enough time this year to get legislative approval for how the state tests lake water. (Associated Press)
  • U.S. troop levels in Iraq are going up again. The Pentagon says it’s sending another 300 soldiers to increase security at the U.S. embassy and elsewhere in the Baghdad area. That will bring the total to about 750. Officials say they’re all there to protect U.S. citizens and property, not to engage in combat. U.S. troops will have a detachment of helicopters and drones to protect the airfield and approaches to Baghdad. The State Department says it is moving a small number of Baghdad embassy staff to Irbil in the north and Basra in the south. It didn’t say how many. (Associated Press)
  • The Pentagon may have to send more troops to Europe, according to the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Europe. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove says force levels are about right, but Russia’s actions in Ukraine could change that. Breedlove says it’s likely that Russia is supplying the heavy weaponry that separatists have used to attack Ukrainian aircraft. A 10-day cease-fire in the region expired last night, with no signs of progress toward ending the conflict. The Pentagon is asking Congress for $1 billion to fund U.S. military activities in Europe. (Defense Department)
  • The FAA will miss its August deadline for final regulations of small drones operating in U.S. airspace. The Transportation Department’s Inspector General also says FAA won’t meet its September 2015 deadline for safely integrating all unmanned aircraft in the U.S. The timetable was set by Congress in a 2012 authorization bill. But the inspector general finds the FAA so far hasn’t established a regulatory framework for training and certification of drone pilots. And that few drones have the ability to detect and evade other aircraft, manned or unmanned. FAA officials concur with the inspector general’s list of 11 recommendations. (Transportation Department IG)