Friday federal headlines – August 1, 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 Office of Personnel Management is urging managers to let people telework next week. Downtown Washington streets could be jammed with road restrictions from the U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit. The event starts Monday and runs through Wednesday. In a memo, OPM director Katherine Archuleta also urges federal managers to let people take leave and other paid time off. The summit has shrunk a bit in recently. Leaders from nations gripped by an Ebola outbreak are pulling out. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Transportation and Veterans Affairs Departments are good to go. But Homeland Security will have to wait. Congress leaves for recess for five weeks with unfinished business. The Senate is in recess for five weeks. Following a Senate vote, the $16.9 billion VA reform bill is awaiting the president’s signature. Ditto for a $10.8 billion highway funding bill a day before funds were to run out. But because of procedural miscues, neither the House nor Senate pass bills to provide emergency money for the Mexican border crisis. The House tries again this morning before it also recesses. (Associated Press)
  • Before recessing, the Senate confirms a new ambassador to Russia. John Tefft receives high marks from Democrats and Republicans. But his vote was delayed because of a Republican hold related to Senate rules changes. Tefft was ambassador to Ukraine under President Obama and to Georgia under George W. Bush. Nominations for ambassadors to Turkey, Guatemala and several other countries remain in limbo for the five-week congressional recess. (Associated Press)
  • The Agriculture Department issues final rules for the first major overhaul of poultry inspection in 50 years. It reduced the number of inspectors in processing plants. Those who remain will focus more on plant conditions that could affect health, and less on inspecting each and every bird carcass. USDA has backed off a proposal to let companies speed up processing lines. The administration says the new procedures could cut foodborrne illnesses by 5,000 cases a year. (Associated Press)
  • A new bill would reverse hikes in federal employee contributions to their pension plans. It’s introduced by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and others, all Democrats. In 2012, Congress voted to require new federal employees to pay 3.1 percent of their salary towards their pension. Last year, it voted for a 4.4 percent contribtion from those hired after 2013. The rest of the federal workforce pays less than one percent. Edwards’ bill would roll everyone back to the 0.8 percent level. (Congresswoman Donna Edwards)
  • The Army is developing 3-D printers for troops to use while on deployment. The move comes six months after civilian manufacturer 3-D Systems debuted the world’s first 3-D food printer at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Research teams at several Army installations are working to develop 3-D printers that are customized for the rigors of areas of military operations. If successful, soldiers around the world would be able to instantly generate their food rations on-site. (Defense One)
  • More than 3,000 federal inmates have applied to have their prison terms cut since the Justice Department rolled out its new initiative in April. That’s five times the number of inmates that applied last year. The goal of the new initiative is to reduce the over-crowded prison population and grant leniency to nonviolent drug offenders. To be eligible, inmates must have already been behind bars for at least 10 years, have a nonviolent history, have no major criminal convictions, have a good behavior record in prison and be serving a sentence that if imposed today would be substantially shorter than what they were given at the time. The 2014 Clemency Project said this week that more than 20,000 federal prisoners have returned surveys seeking to have legal representation during the clemency process. None of the petitions have yet been forwarded to President Obama for his approval. (Associated Press)
  • Friday marks the beginning of the National Immunization Awareness Month. Army Col. Margaret Yacovone is director of the Military Vaccine Agency. She says vaccines are vital to the Defense Department’s fighting force. She emphasizes that 46,000 Americans and 1.5 million children die from vaccine-preventable deaths each year. Among many vaccinations, she recommends it’s important for all age groups to get the annual influenza vaccine. (Defense Department)