WASHINGTON

Unmanned aircraft testing to begin at six U.S. locations

The complicated business of integrating unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies full of small planes and airliners will begin at six test sites and require several years of testing, the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday.

Twenty-four states have applied to host the testing sites, but the FAA has yet to determine where they will be located. In presenting what it called a “road map” for the evolution of unmanned planes into the system, the FAA acknowledged it would take longer than Congress had hoped when it set a September 2015 deadline for granting them general access to the skies.

Until the testing is complete, the FAA said it would grant flight privileges to unmanned aircraft operators on a case-by-case basis.

President supports increase in minimum wage to $10.10

President Obama supports a bill sponsored by two congressional Democrats to bump the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a White House official said Thursday.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., are pushing a plan to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour in increments of 95 cents. Not all Democrats have been on board.

VA trims 200,000 cases from backlog of disability claims

The Department of Veterans Affairs has eliminated more than 200,000 cases from the backlog of disability claims, a 34 percent decrease since its peak of 611,000 in March, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said Thursday.

But he said the department plans to temporarily cease the use of mandatory overtime, an initiative credited as an important part of the reduction. Shinseki said the agency was easing back on overtime, which began in May, to avoid exhausting the workforce.

Shinseki also credited the launch of the VA’s new digital claim system as a key reason for the decline..

Progress on the backlog slowed during the partial government shutdown, when the VA was forced to stop mandatory overtime.

The overtime was reinstated when the shutdown ended, but only until Nov. 23, when it will temporarily cease again until late January.

Government shutdown cost taxpayers about $2 billion

October’s 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government cost taxpayers about $2 billion in lost productivity from 850,000 furloughed employees, the White House budget office said Thursday.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the shutdown also set off a cascade of “negative ramifications on a number of fronts.”

From $500 million in lost spending by visitors to closed national parks to stalled oil drilling permits, the first shutdown in 17 years disrupted private industries, slowed home buying and delayed crucial safety inspections, according to the OMB report. 

– From news service reports