Wednesday federal headlines – July 16, 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 House plans to vote today on a bill to fund financial agencies and government services through fiscal 2015. It would cut IRS’ budget to the lowest level since 2008 — $1.5 billion less than what the agency says it needs. It also makes White House staff unhappy. It would cut the money for their salaries and expenses. The bill says nothing about a pay raise for federal employees. The silence leaves the door open for President Barack Obama to increase salaries by 1 percent, as he’s proposed. But the White House says his advisers are recommending he veto the bill as is. (Congress)
  • The House votes to change automatic enrollments in the Thrift Savings Plan. Under the Smart Savings Act, new hires would be enrolled in one of the L funds, depending on their age, instead of the G Fund. L funds consist of mixtures of the TSP’s five other funds. They have higher returns but also more risk than the G Fund. The mix is riskier for younger employees, but it grow less risky for older ones. The TSP board is concerned that too many young employees linger in the G Fund, limiting their career savings. A companion bill has been referred to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.(Federal News Radio)
  • The Army has its hand slapped for reaching into the National Guard’s cookie jar. The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee approves a bill letting the Guard keep its Apache helicopters, forbidding their transfer to the active duty Army. Army officials sought the transfer of dozens of Apache in exchange for larger Black Hawk helicopters. But Senators weren’t persuaded by budget or operational arguments. Instead, they listened to their states’ Guard units. Many Guard members flew Apaches in Iraq and Afghanistan and didn’t want to trade them in. Brig. Gen. Mike Lundy, commander of the Army Aviation Center of Excellence, says the decision is politics, not common sense. (Associated Press)
  • The F-35 once again is flying, but not very far. The Pentagon has limited flight clearance for the jet following an engine fire last month. Now, it’s requiring that F-35 engines be inspected after three hours of flight time. For that reason, the nation’s most costly aircraft will not be going to a big air show happening now in the United Kingdom. Spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby says the Pentagon is disappointed it won’t be able to display the plane at Farnborough. But investigators are still trying to determine the root cause of the fire. Kirby says so far, nothing points to a problem with the entire fleet. (Defense Department)
  • The Congressional Budget Office revises its assessment of the two biggest entitlement programs. In its latest budget outlook, CBO says Medicare will, under current law, be solvent until 2030. That’s five years longer than its forecast just six months ago. But CBO says the financial outlook for Social Security has worsened a bit. Spending there will rise rapidly for the next 25 years, analysts say. The projections were part of CBO’s latest budget outlook. It predicts stable deficit levels through 2018. After that, barring changes in law, deficits would become noticeably larger. CBO says debt would be on an upward path relative to the size of the economy, a trend that could not be sustained indefinitely. (Congressional Budget Office)
  • Big-data analytics is coming to the federal workforce. The Office of Personnel Management releases an online dashboard to help agencies track employee engagement. The site,, takes data from OPM’s annual federal employee viewpoint survey and other sources. The personnel agency says it will let managers see data specific to their offices. They’ll be able to compare how they’re doing with others across government. The website also has tips, instructions and case studies for improving the workplace culture. (Office of Personnel Management)
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission fills out its leadership under an unusual political deal brokered by the White House and Senate Republicans. The Senate has confirmed FERC enforcement chief Norman Bay to chair the commission. But because Senate Republicans opposed his nomination, saying he lacked experience, Bay will wait nine months. Until then, acting chairman Cheryl LaFleur will continue to lead the agency and Bay will serve as a board member. The Senate confirmed her to a second term in a separate vote. (Associated Press)