Thursday federal headlines - January 16, 2014

Thursday - 1/16/2014, 8:07am 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 House passes the $1.1 trillion spending bill for 2014. The vote wasn't even close, 359 to 67. To give the Senate more time to ponder it, both Chambers passed a three-day continuing resolution. President Obama signed that into law last night. The bill funds pay raises for military service members and hourly wage federal employees. And it includes sharp restrictions on travel and conferences. The bill grants budget increases to NASA, the FBI and Customs and Border Protection. But it continues cuts to the IRS and Transportation Security Administration. NextGov reports, the bill includes $90 million in overtime for disability claims processors and an extra $20 million for computer hardware for the paperless Veterans Benefits Management System. (Associated Press)

  • A bipartisan Senate report finds plenty of blame to go around for the Benghazi attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. The report finds the intelligence community didn't send enough warnings. The State Department didn't take the warnings seriously enough. The military was caught flat-footed when called in to help. All three entities share the blame in a new analysis of the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi in 2012. The Senate Intelligence Committee released the bipartisan report yesterday, citing systemic failures(Associated Press)

  • Two long serving members of the House, one from each major party, have joined the ranks of members calling it quits. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) has represented sections of northern Virginia for 23 years. Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) is chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He was elected 21 years ago. Both say they'll leave when their terms expire in December. Moran has been a popular champion of federal employees. Over the years, he's worked on reforming the federal hiring process. In recent years he's railed against federal pay freezes and furloughs. So far, 15 House members — nine Republicans and six Democrats — have announced plans to leave. (Federal News Radio)

  • Believe it or not, there are more federal worker champions on Capitol Hill than ever before. Federally Employed Women, or FEW, gave 70 lawmakers perfect scores on its annual report card. But even more lawmakers, 89, earned zeros. FEW judged them based on their votes on the shutdown, federal pay, sequestration and equal rights for women. Stars of the class include Reps. Elijah Cummings (D- Md.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). They've all been at the top of the list for at least five years. (Federally Employed Women)

  • The Navy's number two civilian, acting Undersecretary Robert Martinage, has stepped down. The Navy says Secretary Ray Mabus asked for Martinage's resignation following a loss of confidence. Defense News reports, Martinage is accused of having inappropriate relations with a female employee. The President has nominated Jo Ann Rooney to be the permanent undersecretary. The Senate has yet to confirm her. (Navy/Defense News)

  • Troubles in the Air Force nuclear command are spreading. 34 officers who oversee Minuteman missiles have been pulled off the job for involvement in a test cheating ring. The alleged cheating came to light while officers were under investigation for illegal drug possession. All work at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. It's home to one-third of the country's intercontinental ballistic missiles. The duty officers are charged with texting answers to tests for proficiency in how to handle emergency war orders. It's the latest in a series of problems discovered over the past year by the Associated Press. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says she'll travel to all three nuke sites for inspections. (Associated Press)

  • Banks with heavy presence at military bases reap some of the highest levels of service fees. They routinely hit service members and civilians with fees several times the national average. Those are among the results of a Wall Street Journal analysis of bank filings. It identified the top 10 banks in terms of service charges, such as overdraw fees. One of them is Fort Hood National Bank. Service fees there run to 6.8 percent of deposits, versus less than 1 percent nationwide for big banks. Armed Forces Bank has branches at 35 bases. Its fees ran to 5.6 percent of deposits, or $234 per account. The Army says on-base banks prevent gouging. Critics say overdraft fees are essentially the new payday loans. (Wall Street Journal)

  • The top cybersecurity officer for the Health and Human Services Department said he was concerned about potential cybersecurity holes before HealthCare.gov launched. Kevin Charest spelled out his concerns in a deposition to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It was made available to the AP. Charest is scheduled to testify in person today. He says he asked staff at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for details on security controls built into the site. But he says he never got them. Charest says he thinks CMS officials were deliberately withholding the information. Critics say the balky website is vulnerable to hackers seeing personal information. (Associated Press)

  • Want a drone but low on cash? Borrow one. Customs and Border Protection has flown its drones on behalf of others nearly 700 times in the past three years. Customers include the FBI, U.S. Marshals, the Coast Guard, even sheriffs and the North Dakota Army National Guard. The Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained the flight logs as part of an ongoing open-records lawsuit against Customs. An agency spokeswoman says most drones help secure the borders, but they also aid emergency responders in disaster areas. (Associated Press)

  • In a sign of the rough times, federal contracting fell 11 percent in fiscal 2013, down $58 billion. That's according to numbers crunched by the New York Times. It's the steepest drop in at least a decade. The pain is felt most by small businesses. The Pentagon has cut funds for Iraq and Afghanistan. That accounts for some of the decline. Sequestration accounts for most of the rest. Few contractors expect a full rebound this year. (New York Times)