Friday federal headlines – August 29, 2014

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on the Federal Drive and In Depth radio shows each day. Our headlines are updated twice per day — once in the morning and once in the afternoon — with the latest news affecting federal employees and contractors.

  • The proposed rule that would let some temporary federal employees qualify for coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program might be inconsistent with current law. That’s according to Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-Okla). He says the law only lets federal employees qualify for federal health coverage after one year of continuous employment instead of a 90 day waiting period. (Sen. Tom Coburn)
  • Even as he moves 3,000 miles from Washington, President Barack Obama wants his chief technology officer to stay with the administration, just in a new role. That’s the word from the White House as Todd Park relocates to Silicon Valley in the coming weeks. The role that Obama has asked Park to play out west focuses on two goals: recruiting top tech talent and identifying innovative ways to improve the quality of government digital services. Park begins this new gig in September. He has been with the administration since 2009 and CTO since 2012. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Obama moves to fill important management positions. He plans to nominate Russell Deyo to be the undersecretary for management at the Homeland Security Department. Deyo would replace Rafael Borras, who left government in February. Deyo retired from Johnson and Johnson after spending 27 years there. Obama nominates Danny Marti as the new White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. He comes to the White House from the law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton. Obama taps a federal prosecutor in Texas to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If confirmed, Sarah Saldeña would be the first Hispanic woman to run ICE. (Federal News Radio)
  • The search for the pilot of an F-15 jet that crashed this week in rural Virginia came to a sad end. Military officials announced yesterday that the pilot has been killed. The F-15 crashed in a section of remote Virginia mountains Wednesday morning. For two days, more than 100 state, local and federal law enforcement officials, as well as volunteers, searched for the pilot to no avail. Col. James Keefe announced the pilot’s death at the Massachusetts Air National Guard, home of the 104th Fighter Wing, where the pilot and jet were based. But as of this morning, the pilot’s identity has not been released. (Washington Times)
  • President Obama says he doesn’t yet have a strategy for how to degrade or destroy the Islamic State. So he asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, for a range of options. Meanwhile, the terrorist army has been tearing through Syria and Iraq. Thursday it executed some 250 captured Syrian soldiers. Obama said his goal is to enable Iraq to defend itself and to degrade ISIL long term. (Defense Department)
  • The National Institutes of Health said it will start testing a new Ebola vaccine on people, starting next week. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will carry out the tests, using adults at its campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Test subjects do not have Ebola. The vaccine was co-developed by the institute and Glaxo-Smith-Kline. NIH is working with overseas partnerships to conduct tests in the United Kingdom and in the west African countries of Gamia and Mali. Ebola infections have killed nearly 1,500 people in Africa. (National Institutes of Health)
  • Veterans should have an easier time estimating their college benefits and researching educational programs to their liking. The Veterans Affairs Department just unveiled a new and improved version of the GI Bill Comparison Tool. The online tool has been accessed by 350,000 people in the past six months, the agency said. Primarily, it’s designed to be a resource for vets to learn more about VA’s approved college, university and training programs. The updated version has new functionality, including a more robust benefits calculator and a feature that identifies schools with student veteran groups. (Veterans Affairs Department)
  • The Obama Administration is starting to move against states that don’t adopt federal standards for public education. The Education Department stripped Oklahoma of authority for how to spend $29 million in federal school aid. The state legislature voted earlier this year to ditch the Common Core, now in use by 40 states. Earlier this week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sued the Obama Administration over Common Core. The suit claims the administration is using education grants to force states to adopt the national curriculum. (Associated Press)
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency turned down Hawaii’s request for a disaster declaration. The state sought federal money to help repair damage from Tropical Storm Iselle. A FEMA spokesman said the damage was not beyond Hawaii’s ability to pay. The storm destroyed 11 homes and left 28 needing major repairs. Gov. Neal Abercrombie said he’ll appeal FEMA’s decision. (Associated Press)
  • The former acting director of cybersecurity at the Health and Human Services Department was found guilty of a number of child porn offenses.The FBI said Timothy DeFoggi was convicted of possessing and conspiring to advertise and distribute child pornography. DeFoggi was arrested in 2013 as part of an FBI crackdown on child pornography websites. His sentencing will take place in November. DeFoggi began working at HHS in 2008 as an IT specialist and gradually moved up in the agency. (Justice Department)
  • It’s not exactly like losing your keys. But the U.S. Postal Service leased 35 trailers for a distribution center in New Jersey and then completely lost track of where the trailers were. Aew report by the Inspector General explains the incident. The IG said the Postal Service could not validate the trailers’ location or use for two years. Yet the agency continued paying leasing costs for the trailers for the whole two years. The lease costs came to about $250,000. The IG Office said this specific situation was part of a bigger problem. The IG has expressed concerns about the Postal Service’s lack of controls over leased trailers since 2001. But these concerns have not led to constructive action. The report’s main recommendation was for the Postal Service to actually develop a trailer leasing policy, because it has none at the moment. (USPS Inspector General)
  • The Agriculture Department made a large, and particularly slimy, illegal seizure — more than 1,200 live snails. The snails are a variety called giant African snails that can damage buildings, destroy crops and even cause meningitis in humans. The seizures took place between June and now. A social media tip first led the USDA to a snail buyer in Long Island, who then led them to the seller. Ultimately, all of the illegal snail dealing could be traced back to a single individual in Georgia, the agency said. The USDA is not releasing names of any of those involved in the snail trade. But its investigation is ongoing. The snails in question are said to reproduce incredibly quickly, so finding them in a hurry was critical. (Associated Press)
  • The Army wants to do a better job tracking and monitoring fuel across the battlefield. That’s the impetus behind testing new systems that would boost real- time accountability. Army officials said the collapsible tanks that have been used since the 1970s have been “good enough.” But warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated to the agency the need to come up with better measurement methods. (Army)