Wednesday federal headlines – Aug. 13, 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.

  • Purchasing pens, paper and printing supplies is about to get a whole lot more efficient and less costly for the federal government. The General Services Administration just awarded its latest Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative for office supplies. The idea of the initiative is to save money for the federal government by having a list of venders with negotiated low prices on office supplies. OS3 is expected to provide more than $90 million in annual savings and to drive office supply buying to small businesses. Twenty of the 21 businesses that GSA awarded contracts to are small businesses. (Federal News Radio)
  • Does the Office of Personnel Management need to switch up how it pays some General Schedule employees? OPM wants to know agencies’ take. Director Katherine Archuleta just wrote a memo to Chief Human Capital Officers requesting information on GS employees who are paid using special rates. The memo comes as President Obama has proposed a 1 percent pay increase for all federal employees in his fiscal year 2015 budget. Agencies now have to gauge how that increase (if Congress allows it) will affect GS employees being paid using special rates. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Health and Human Services Department is warning about 310,000 people their health insurance may run out at the end of September. All those people bought insurance on the new health care exchange, but their citizenship or immigration details don’t match what the government has on file. They’ll have to upload documentation by Sept. 5. This is progress for the administration. Back in May, there were three times as many consumers with discrepancies. Half of the cases have been closed. Another 20 percent are being worked on. The remainder are the most difficult to resolve. (Associated Press)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement released 2,200 immigrant detainees in one month last year. The inspector general says more than half of those releases took place over a single weekend in February, just before sequestration began. The report suggests it was an illegal move to save money. The agency realized it did not have the funds to care for so many detainees. The IG says the agency still does not have a good strategy for managing its detention budget. Arizona’s two Republican senators are demanding answers from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. ICE admits that about 600 of the detainees had criminal convictions. (Homeland Security Department/Senate)
  • Journalists and scientific organizations say the EPA is stopping its independent scientific advisers from speaking out. It’s the latest tussle between the press and the Obama Administration over transparency. The seven groups, including the Society of Environmental Journalists and the American Geophysical Union, more U.S. troops are headed to Iraq this week. But officials are calling their deployment swift and temporary. The Pentagon sent 130 troops on what it says is a mission to assess the humanitarian crisis facing displaced Iraqi civilians there. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says it’s not a rescue or a “boots on the ground situation.” The troops arrived Tuesday in the city of Irbil, east of Sinjar, to work with State Department and USAID representatives and help the trapped civilians on Sinjar Mountain. They will judge whether a rescue is possible and then quickly return. (Associated Press)
  • Soldiers are getting new shorts and shirts to work out in, but they are not to everyone’s liking. The Army program office says it designed the new duds based on soldier feedback, although money was another factor. The uniform a simple black shirt that says “Army” and black shorts. The Army says many soldiers did not like the materials used in the old uniform and complained about shorts riding up during sit-ups and other exercises. It says soldiers were buying spandex undergarments just to cover up. But on Twitter, some soldiers and guardsmen are complaining about the dark color, saying it will lead to overheating during hot workouts. The Army says the high-tech fabric compensates for that. The new uniform will cost about $3 less than the current one. (Army)