Wednesday federal headlines – July 23, 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.

  • A new bill would impose a new performance management regime on federal agencies. The Lean and Responsive Government Act is sponsored by Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa). It would require agencies to use continuous process improvement methods. The bill cites use of these methods by 100 large U.S. corporations. It would require the Office of Management and Budget to appoint what it calls a highly qualified expert on continuous process improvement. That person would sit on the Performance Improvement Council. The bill would also require OMB to establish a continuous improvement center of excellence in the Defense Department. (Federal News Radio)
  • One of the Homeland Security Department’s top cybersecurity leaders is retiring from government. Sources say Larry Zelvin will step down as the director of the National Cyber and Communications Integration Center next month. One source says he’ll join CitiGroup. Zelvin has spent more than 30 years in federal service. He joined Homeland Security in 2012. He’d spent three years on the White House national security staff following 26 years in the Navy. Sources tell Federal News Radio, Greg Touhill will act in Zelvin’s job until DHS hires a permanent replacement. Touhill is the deputy assistant secretary for Cybersecurity Operations and Programs. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama orders a shift in direction on federal job-training programs. He tells agencies, don’t award grants to programs that “train and pray,” meaning that they train people for work and then pray those people find jobs. Instead, the President says agencies will support programs that provide training demanded by local employers. They will also demand more data, like how many graduates find jobs and how much they earn. The President spoke at a signing ceremony for job-training legislation. The White House completed a six-month review of federal programs. It says agencies are trying to work more closely together on similar programs. (White House)
  • If you’ve noticed your mail man out and about after you get home from work, you’re not alone. The Postal Service inspector general flags a disturbing trend in our area: More letter carriers finishing their routes after 5 p.m. A new report says the problem has grown by 14 percent over three years. The IG says it raises safety concerns and makes customers unhappy. It blames processing facilities for missing deadlines and managers for lax supervision. (Postal Service Inspector General)
  • National Guard troops headed to the Texas-Mexico border primarily will observe what’s happening. A top general says they’ll detain migrants only if they interfere with their mission. Texas Adjutant General John Nichols is leading the thousand Texas National Guard troops. He says they will be armed for their own safety. Gov. Rick Perry has called them up to bolster the 3,000 border patrol agents working in the Rio Grande Valley. Nichols said troops will deploy in the next few weeks. No end date for the operation has been set. A Government Accountability Office audit two years ago questioned the impact of past Guard deployments along the border. They noted Defense Department worries that the strategy was more ad hoc than comprehensive. (Associated Press)
  • The Russians are desperate, so they challenge whether U.S. military satellites could have detected the launch of the missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the Ukraine. That’s the assessment of Gen. William Shelton, commander of the Air Force Space Command. Defense News reports, Shelton says U.S. satellites are very good, sensitive and accurate. He says U.S. detection of the missile launch has been confirmed by videos and other evidence. He stops short of confirming it was the Air Force’s Space Based Infrared Systems satellites that specifically detected the shot, hinting that’s classified. Earlier, a Russian general called on the U.S. to produce its imagery. Shelton says that’s proof of desperation. Still, U.S. officials late yesterday released the imagery. (Defense News)
  • More active duty military members have committed suicide this year. Pentagon documents given to the Associated Press show six more suicides as of July 14, compared with the same time period last year, for a total of 161. While the increase is small, it reverses a trend the military has worked hard to promote. The uptick was among Air Force and Navy members. On the bright side, Pentagon experts say they are encouraged by a 25 percent increase in calls to a crisis line. A website linked to a suicide prevention program has seen a 500 percent increase in visitors. They say programs are proving most successful at the unit level. (Associated Press)
  • Congressional investigators will testify today they were able to use fake IDs to get subsidized insurance coverage on the federal exchange. Working under cover, employees of the Government Accountability Office succeeded in 11 out of 18 attempts. They used invalid Social Security numbers, phony income figures and false claims of citizenship. Seto Bagdoyan is the head of audits and investigations at GAO. He presents his findings today to the House Ways and Means Committee. An advance copy of the report was made available to the Associated Press. Bagdoyan will also testify that there’s still a huge backlog of applications with data discrepancies. (Associated Press)
  • The Justice Department joins a whistleblower lawsuit against software giant Symantec. The suit alleges Symantec violated the false claims act. Between 2007 and 2012, the suit says Symantec deliberately gave the government false commercial pricing information, and that yielded higher prices on the company’s GSA schedule sales. The General Services Administration uses commercial best prices to negotiate schedule pricing. Justice says the over-pricing may have affected hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. The whistleblower filed a qui tam suit, meaning he or she gets a portion of a settlement if the company is found guilty and pays restitution. (Justice Department)