Monday federal headlines – August 4, 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.

  • Information available at is okay as far as it goes. But more than half of federal discretionary spending doesn’t show up or can’t be verified. An audit by the Government Accountability Office finds, agencies mostly misreport spending on grants. Auditors estimate the questionable data represents $619 billion. They recommend the White House improve guidance so agencies have a clearer idea of how to report grants. The GAO says agencies do a much better job of reporting contract spending. (Federal News Radio)
  • A secret Obama administration program sent young Latin Americans to Cuba to try to foment political change. An Associated Press investigation finds, they were often lightly trained and underpaid. As a consequence, they were in danger of discovery and capture. The program was overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It sent a dozen people from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru, under cover and posing as tourists. Their goal was to convert local Cubans into activists. The program ran from 2009 to 2012. It was paid for under the same program that launched a U.S. government backed Twitter-like program to give Cubans a social media outlet. (Associated Press)
  • You’ll want to give yourself some extra time to get to work this week. Or stay home and work from there. A historic meeting of African presidents in Washington, complete with motorcades, is expected to clog downtown roads. The Office of Personnel Management says Tuesday and Wednesday will see the most significant traffic disruptions. It encourages agencies to let employees telework. It says 70 percent of federal employees in this area are telework eligible. (Office of Personnel Management, Federal News Radio)
  • Hewlett-Packard will pay $32.5 million for overbilling the Postal Service. The settlement follows a lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act. The Justice Department accuses the Silicon Valley tech firm of overcharging the Postal Service for products over the course of nine years, from 2001 to 2010. It says HP violated the terms of its contract, which included charging the Postal Service no more than it did other customers. HP admits no fault. (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • Federal agencies met their goal for small business contracting in 2013. Agencies were able to award 23 percent of contracts to disadvantages companies, the Small Business Administration reports. But results weren’t universally successful. Agencies missed their goals for women-owned and HUB-zone businesses. Still, it was the first time in nearly a decade the government met the overall 23 percent goal. The Interior and Transportation Departments were the top performing large agencies when it came to small business contracting. All told, small businesses received $83 billion in federal contracts. (Federal News Radio)
  • Defense Department officials are discussing whether to send more personnel to West Africa to help with the Ebola epidemic. Several military health workers are already there. They include a entomologist from the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. They’re helping with both logistics and patient care. The Pentagon has been interested in filoviruses such as Ebola for decades. Planners worry they could be turned into biological weapons. Defense researchers have been working on a treatment for Ebola under a a grant from the Food and Drug Administration. But the FSA recently stopped a human clinical study, seeking more information on the protocol before letting it proceed. (Military Times)
  • After much deliberation, the Army has selected a new pattern of camouflage called, appropriately, Operational Camouflage Pattern. The service says testing has proven the pattern will offer exceptional concealment to soldiers in combatant commands anywhere and not just in Afghanistan. But there won’t be a mass costume change any time soon. The Army plans to replace uniforms and equipment as they wear out. The new pattern goes on sale next summer. (U.S. Army)
  • A new Senate bill would make it harder for the Social Security Administration to close field offices. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced the legislation before Congress adjourned for the month. It would require Social Security to give six months’ notice before closing an office. The agency would have to give the public a chance to comment and would have to provide a detailed impact statement. The American Federation of Government Employees has been fighting to keep field offices open. It says the agency has closed more than 70 across the country in recent years. (AFGE)
  • The inspector general of the National Archives is retiring amid allegations of sexual harrassment and racial discrimination. A council of his peers finds Paul Brachfeld’s behavior undermined the integrity of his office. The accusations have dogged Brachfeld since 2012. At that time, the archivist put Brachfeld on paid administrative leave. He’s been collecting a full salary and benefits since then. Today’s announcement ends a 35-year career in federal service. (Washington Post)