Tuesday federal headlines – July 15, 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 Air Force is restructuring its headquarters in a move to save $1.6 billion over five years. It will cut nearly 3,500 positions both in the United States and overseas. The service says it will offer early retirement and buyouts to civilian workers, then use other methods if necessary. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James wants to make the tough choices now rather than drag them out over five years. She says it’s better for the workforce, and it allows the Air Force to put the savings into readiness and modernization of key programs. The Air Force will also reduce contract spending, operating budgets and travel expenses. (Defense Department)
  • Economic reports, the Census, even the weather. If the Commerce Department isn’t about the data, who is? Secretary Penny Pritzker says she’ll hire a chief data officer to pull all that data together and improve how it’s collected and disseminated. That’s one of several data-related announcements Pritzker made in a speech at a San Diego conference. She also announced a new data advisory council of private-sector leaders. It will focus on making Commerce data more useful and manageable. (Commerce Department)
  • The trademark commissioner at the Patent and Trademark Office is in hot water after the inspector general says she tried to get a relative’s boyfriend a job. Commerce IG Todd Zinser tells Federal News Radio, Commissioner Deborah Cohn played favorites. A hiring manager did not want to give the relative’s boyfriend an interview. Zinser says Cohn insisted. When the man was not hired, she created a new position for him. Zinser is recommending administrative action against Cohn. He says the agency has a bigger problem, though. It’s common for employees to recommend applicants during the hiring process, and those applicants get interviews, even if they are not the most qualified. (Federal News Radio)
  • A recent Congressional hearing is revealing a rift between EPA supervisors and rank-and-file. Administrator Gina McCarthy told a committee she’d be open to changes in civil service rules that could make it easier to fire employees. But which employees? The American Federation of Government Employees says the EPA is too quick to blame lower-level employees for problems. Case in point: The inspector general found evidence of “man caves” that contractors had set up at an EPA warehouse. The union says employees were suspended for failing to report the gym equipment, TVs and such. But the senior executive in charge is still on the job. (American Federation of Government Employees)