Wednesday federal headlines – September 3, 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 Office of Personnel Management needs to update the General Schedule Classification System. The Government Accountability Office says implementing one of the system’s eight attributes comes at the expense of another. (Federal News Radio)
  • Agencies have a new set of best practices to help keep employees more informed about equal opportunity rights. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says agencies are having a harder time sharing equal employment opportunity information with employees who telework or work at a remote site. Among the suggestions EEOC offers in a new report are creating brochures that outline the complaint process and designating one person as the EEO point of contact. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Homeland Security Department spends $534 million every year to maintain its enormous fleet of 56,000 vehicles across the globe. But a big part of this sum, between $35 and $49 million in fiscal year 2012, came from underused vehicles. This comes from a new Inspectors General report. Underused vehicles are ones driven less than 12,000 miles annually. President Obama, back in 2011, issued a memo directing federal agencies to reduce their fleet sizes and requiring them to explain the need for keeping underused vehicles. However in Homeland Security’s case, the IG found no justification and a lack of any systems to ensure that the agency maintains an appropriate number of vehicles as cost effectively as possible. (DHS Inspector General)
  • The Homeland Security inspector general has found no evidence to substantiate claims of poor treatment of illegal child immigrants. IG John Roth looked into 16 complaints filed by advocacy groups. Alleged problems included facilities that were too cold or too hot, and not enough food and medical care. Roth says food service has improved since the American Civil Liberties Union complained back in June. Roth says his findings were presented to federal prosecutors. They declined to prosecute. Another 100 complaints are still under investigation by three DHS components. (Associated Press)
  • An eight-year-old Homeland Security program to protect cities from nuclear dangers is coming to the Washington, D.C., region. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson says the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency will get a $6 million grant. It’s eligible for another $24 million over the next four years. The Securing the Cities program already covers New York City, Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. Its goal is to reduce the threat of radiological or nuclear materials. The program provides localities with nuclear detection equipment and training for first responders. (Homeland Security Department)
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission changes leadership hands and makes history in the process. Vice Chair Jenny Yang is being bumped up to chair of the commission and, in the process, is the first Asian-American chair of the commission. President Obama appointed Yang this week. She has served as vice chair of the EEOC since April. The EEOC’s role is to enforce federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. As part of the commission, Yang has led a comprehensive review of the agency’s program dealing with allegations of discrimination. (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
  • Ebola spreads to a third American. The aid group SIM USA said Tuesday that one of its doctors was infected while treating patients in Liberia’s capital city. The doctor isolated himself when he first experienced symptoms, SIM USA said in a statement. It’s not yet known how he contracted ebola. SIM USA is scheduled to hold a press conference today to provide an update on the doctor’s condition. Also Tuesday, both the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations coordinator for Ebola said in different announcements that the outbreak is getting worse. David Navarro, the United Nations coordinator said the outbreak is “acelerating before us.” (SIM USA)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency keeps coddling an employee who the agency’s inspector general says assaulted her months ago. The Washington Times reports that the lawyer of IG special agent Elisabeth Heller Drake sent a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform detailing her complaints. Drake has been trying to looking into the EPA’s homeland security office. But her attempts to conduct a routine interview escalated quickly, ended with her filing an assault complaint against Steven Williams, an intelligence adviser in the office. Drake’s beef now is that the EPA has not taken action since that assault complaint. The Times reports that an EPA spokeswoman declined to comment. (Washington Times)
  • The Defense Department is adding 350 troops to help protect the American Embassy in Baghdad. That will raise the number of forces in Iraq to more than 1,000. The Pentagon says, most of the new troops will come from the Army and Marine Corps ranks in Central Command. The buildup comes following threats from Islamic State militants. Administration officials worry about the approach of the 9/11 anniversary. (Associated Press)
  • If the bosses of a Somalia-based terror gang thought they were being fingered by the United States, they were right. The Pentagon confirmed that the leadership of the al-Shabab extremist group was the target of Monday night’s air strikes. Spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby sayid officials haven’t confirmed whether al Shabab’s commander, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was among those killed. The strike was carried out by special operations forces. They used both manned and unmanned aircraft firing Hellfire missiles and other guided munitions. Kirby said if Godane was killed, it would be a significant blow to the Al-Qaida-aligned group. (Associated Press)