Wednesday federal headlines – July 30, 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 proposed new FBI headquarters will either be in Virginia or Maryland. But not in the District of Columbia. The agency has narrowed its picks to three possible locations. In Virginia, the potential site is the Franconia Warehouse Complex, already occupied by the General Services Administration. In Maryland, both sites are in Prince George’s County. One is near the Greenbelt Metro just off the Capital Beltway. The other is in Landover, not far from Fedex Field. The FBI now has more than 3 million square feet of office space in more than 20 leased locations in addition to its 9th Street Northwest headquarters. If the FBI picks Landover, it would be following in the footsteps of the Washington Redskins. The football team left Capitol Hill in 1997 for Landover. (Federal News Radio)
  • A House committee Senate bill would end the National Security Agency’s bulk phone records collection. It’s co- sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), among others. A similar bill already passed in the House contains weaker language concerning the data. The Senate bill states flatly that the NSA would no longer amass carrier records. But it would still get access to them if the secret spy court gives its permission. The Senate measure has the support of the Obama administration and civil liberties groups. (Associated Press)
  • Thousands of part-time, intermittent and seasonal federal employees would be eligible for health care benefits. A rule proposed by the Office of Personnel Management would expand a program started last year. That’s when seasonal firefighters got access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. OPM proposes including anyone expected to work least 130 hours in a calendar month. And who is expected to work for at least 90 days. They would be eligible for the government contribution to their insurance premium. Long term temps can use the FEHBP now, but they don’t get the federal subsidy. OPM wants the new rules to become effective this coming January. (Federal Register)
  • China has sent a spy ship to scope out the RIMPAC naval exercises taking place near Hawaii. Navy leaders say find it odd. That’s because the Chinese have four ships and 11,000 sailors participating directly in the biannual exercise. Adm. Samuel Locklear is the top U.S. military official in Asia. He says the good news is that the spy ship indicates Chinese acceptance of international law. Military and survey operations are permitted in another country’s exclusive economic zone. He says the Navy isn’t bothered by the fact that the Chinese are gathering signal intelligence near Hawaii. The U.S. Navy, he says, does it all the time near China. Locklear says the neaby ship hasn’t affected any of the RIMPAC exercises.
  • (Defense News)
  • The Senate confirms a new leader for the Veterans Affairs Department as the House prepares to vote on a major overhaul. Former Procter and Gamble CEO Robert McDonald got unanimous approval from the upper chamber. He has pledged to create a safe space for VA employees to raise their concerns. The House could vote as early as today on a $17 billion measure to help veterans get more timely care and help the VA hire more staff and open more clinics. (Associated Press)
  • A shady lender who targeted active-duty service members agrees to settle with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency say 17,000 military and other consumers will receive a total of $92 million in debt relief from Rome Finance. Bureau director Richard Cordray says the company lured service members in with promises of instant financing for electronics only to saddle them with hidden charges. In a statement, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says he is grateful to the bureau, and that no person in uniform should fall victim to predatory lenders. (Defense Department)
  • The Defense Department steps into an investigation of plagiarism. The Army War College is looking into accusations that Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) copied key parts of a research paper he wrote as a graduate student at the school. The DoD inspector general will review the findings of the school’s academic review board. It’s not clear whether the Pentagon or the college’s leader would have the final say. While it’s rare for the Defense Department to get involved in plagiarism cases, it does so when general officers and federal lawmakers are accused. (Associated Press)
  • Weaknesses in computer networks at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could pose a risk to the nation, according to the inspector general. The IG audited systems that support key environmental satellites and the National Weather Service. It found both vulnerable to cyber attacks, especially through mobile devices. In one case, a hacker stole data from the satellite program by exploiting a remote connection between the system and a contract employee’s personal computer. (NOAA Office of the Inspector General)