Tuesday federal headlines – July 8, 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 budget process on Capitol Hill hits the summer doldrums. Congress has fewer than 30 working days left in the fiscal year, but most budget work is unfinished. The House has passed five of its 12 annual spending bills. The Senate has passed none. Last fall, members signed off on a two-year deal that set top-line spending, but that’s where the agreements end. Members remain divided over spending levels for individual agencies. Senate budget chairman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) last month delayed votes on spending bills because of disagreements over amendments. (Federal News Radio)
  • Congress is pressuring the Office of Personnel Management to finish up regulations for phased retirement. Director Katherine Archuleta gets two letters from Capitol Hill, wondering what’s taking so long. Both demand a new timeline for action. Congress authorized phased retirement two years ago. OPM was supposed to issue final regulations one year ago. Under phased retirement, employees work part time after they retire, in away that doesn’t harm their annuity. One letter comes from Rep. Darrell Issa (R- Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The other is signed by six members, including four from Virginia and one from Maryland. (Federal News Radio)
  • Highway construction and maintenance has hit a roadblock. The Transportation Department says the fund for state highway projects is running out of money. The Highway Trust Fund provides $37 billion to state transportation departments in fiscal 2014. If Congress doesn’t take action, the funds will likely dry up in August. Then, federal officials will have reduce payments to the states. Federal Times reports, the lack of funds could be troublesome for public safety and economic development. (Federal Times)
  • In a Washington version of a lovers’ quarrel, the nation’s biggest teachers’ union calls for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to quit. That vote comes at the National Education Association’s annual convention. Teachers are upset that Duncan supported a California judge who struck down tenure for public school teachers. Union bosses have never liked Duncan’s support for charter schools. Duncan says he’s had good relations with the NEA. But he says he stays out of local union politics. (Associated Press)
  • Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says the Air Force will find $50 million in this year’s budget to make urgent fixes to the Minuteman missile fleet. She promises another $350 million in improvements over the coming five years. But that may not be enough to prevent continued deterioration of the support systems for the missile leg of the nuclear triad. The age and crumbling support infrastructure contributes to personnel problems in the ICBM force over the past year. The Air Force says the 40-year-old missile system is safe and secure. But it also admits to fraying at the edges, worn command posts, corroded launch silos and failing support equipment. The emergency-response helicopter fleet is so old, a replacement was deemed “critical” years ago. (Associated Press)
  • The top U.S. commander in Europe has a message for Congress: It’s time to stop the drawdown in Europe. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove says new missions to keep ground troops and aircraft in Eastern Europe are putting a strain on his current workforce of 67,000 troops. DefenseNews reports, Breedlove says the renewed military threat from Russia is disturbing the eastern region of Europe, and he will probably need more troops to help combat the problem. But EUCOM’s long term needs remain unclear, because the Pentagon has not officially canceled longstanding plans for troop reductions in Europe, which started more than a decade ago following the collapse of the Soviet Union. (DefenseNews)
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration is looking for a cloud computing provider. It needs a place to store a growing stockpile of sensitive mapping data. NextGov reports, DEA’s solicitation says the data it wants to move to the cloud is moderately sensitive. The agency is looking for a contractor with FedRAMP certification, meaning it’s been preapproved for cybersecurity by federal authorities. DEA officials hope to join a government community cloud shared by other agencies. The solicitation calls for improved scalability, on-demand capacity and reliable disaster recovery. (NextGov)