Monday federal headlines - December 16, 2013

Monday - 12/16/2013, 8:16am EST

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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The Senate is expected to approve this week the bipartisan budget agreement passed by the House. The Appropriations committees aren't wasting any time. They are beginning work on an omnibus appropriations bill that rolls 12 different spending bills into one. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, will spell out exactly how much each agency gets to spend next year and on what. The current continuing resolution funding the government expires on Jan. 15. (Federal News Radio)

  • Congress has re-opened the debate about how much contractors should charge the government for executive compensation. The legal limit now stands at $952,000. The authorization deal the Senate debates this week contains a clause to cut the maximum compensation in half, to $487,000. But a bipartisan Defense authorization bill also working through Congress contains a third figure, somewhere in between the other two. Unions and good-government groups have criticized the current formula. They say top contractor pay should be more in line with top federal employee pay. The President's salary is $400,000. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Veterans Affairs Department is making it easier for veterans to receive health care and compensation for certain illnesses linked to traumatic brain injury. The new regulations could pave the way for thousands of veterans to file claims. Veterans who can prove service-connected TBI may also claim any of five additional diseases caused by their brain injury. The New York Times reports the final rules will be published on Tuesday in the Federal Register. The new policy takes effect on Jan. 16. (New York Times)

  • The White House has decided not to separate the National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command. An interagency review found the current setup to be the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies' missions. Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA and Cyber Command boss, retires this spring. The Obama administration also has confirmed the job will go to another military officer. A White House spokeswoman says Cyber Command needs the NSA's cryptology expertise. She says a dual hat set-up helps prevent NSA and cyber command from setting up redundant functions. (Federal News Radio)

  • In the pivot to Asia, the United States is putting its money where its mouth is. Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. will provide $32.5 million in new aid to help Southeast Asian countries protect their territorial waters. Vietnam will receive nearly half of the additional aid. That includes five fast patrol boats for its coast guard. The aid comes as China is asserting its authority over the South China Sea, alarming other nations in the area. In all, the U.S. has pledged $156 million over two years to bolster security in the area. (Associated Press)

  • A Senate hearing is scheduled for this week on the alleged misconduct of Charles Edwards, the deputy inspector general of the Homeland Security Department. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on financial contracting and oversight is investigating charges that Edwards abused agency personnel and resources for personal benefit, practiced favoritism and retaliation, and destroyed records. Edwards is scheduled to appear as a witness at Thursday's hearing. (Senate)

  • The Federal Railroad Administration needs to round up more rail inspectors. According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, there are just over 300 inspectors across the country — enough to oversee 1 percent of the U.S. railroad operations. GAO estimates it takes four months to four years to train a safety inspector. It says the FRA has not been planning for the future. As of April, 23 inspector positions were vacant. FRA is part of the Transportation Department. DoT says it would consider the GAO's recommendations on improving hiring practices. (GAO)

  • More companies have protested the Homeland Security Department's Eagle II contract than received awards. 27 unsuccessful bidders have filed complaints with the Government Accountability Office. DHS awarded 15 companies spots on the services vehicles Sept. 30. The government shutdown interrupted the debriefing and protest filing period. GAO has until March 19 to decide on the protests. DHS estimates the 7-year multiple-award contract is worth $22 billion. (Federal News Radio)

  • A local defense contractor splits its technology business from its government services work. Exelis, based in McLean, Va., says the plan is to create an independent public company for its services unit by next summer. According to the Washington Post, Exelis Mission Systems will be led by Kenneth Hunzeker, a retired three-star Army general. Louis Giuliano, an executive at the Carlyle Group, will be non-executive chairman of the new company's board. (Washington Post)