Thursday federal headlines - October 24, 2013

Thursday - 10/24/2013, 8:02am EDT

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.

  • Today is an unexpected payday for some federal employees. In an email to staff, IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel says IT and HR employees worked over the weekend so paychecks could come four days earlier than scheduled. They should include back pay for the shutdown. The Washington Post reports, Customs and Border Protection has also moved payday up to today. Many of its employees had to work throughout the shutdown, with no guarantee of a paycheck. Employees will get half of the shutdown pay today, with the rest to come Monday with their regular paycheck. The Social Security Administration last week announced it was rushing backpay to employees. They should have already received it. (Washington Post)

  • Five percent of the IRS' contract workforce is not paying taxes on time. That's nearly 700 workers. The agency's inspector general says they owe $5.4 million combined. More than half of them are supposed to be ineligible to do work for the IRS because they have no plans to pay the back taxes. The IRS requires employees and those who work on agency contracts to comply with federal tax laws. That means they have to file returns on time and either pay all the taxes they owe or enroll in a payment plan. IG J. Russell George says the agency should treat the contractors as they would their employees. That means better monitoring throughout the contract period. (Associated Press)

  • Leading contractors responsible for the government's trouble-plagued health insurance website are saying the Obama administration shares responsibility for snags that have crippled the system. CGI Federal built the federal HealthCare.gov website serving 36 states. Quality Software Services, Inc. designed a backroom operation for verifying applicants' income and other personal details. Executives from both companies plan to tell the House Energy and Commerce Committee, last-minute requests from federal officials and intense consumer demand are to blame for the technical glitches. The hearing comes as even some Democrats suggest President Barack Obama needs to fire the people responsible for the site's problems. The White House says it plans to push back the deadline for applying for health insurance without risk of a penalty. The new date would be at the end of March. And Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has met with leaders of 14 insurance companies to discuss forming new technical teams to help fix the website. Sebelius is expected to testify on Capitol Hill next week. (Associated Press)

  • EPA officials are on an 11 stop listening tour to solicit ideas for new power plant emission standards. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is working with states to cut air pollution from the plants. EPA is supposed to set guidelines for the states to use. Officials were in New York and Atlanta yesterday. Future stops includes Denver, Lenexa, Kan., and Washington, D.C. Reuters reports, states already with plans to cut carbon emissions will urge the EPA to use them as a model for the others. More than 1,000 power plants are in operation. (EPA)

  • The owner of a New Jersey based defense contractor pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to supplying faulty parts and emailing sensitive material without approval. Allied Components in Sparta Owner Robert Luba admitted to supplying parts for F-15 fighter jets that were made in India, violating a requirement that his supplies be American-made. The U.S. Attorney's Office says the Air Force grounded 47 planes for inspection because of problems with the supplies. Luba also admitted to emailing blueprints of a U.S. nuclear submarine to India without government permission. He faces a maximum 25 year sentence and more than $1 million in fines. (NJ Herald)

  • More international leaders are voicing their concern with U.S. intelligence activities. French newspaper La Monde reports the NSA collected more than 70 million French telephone records in a 30-day period. Now, the French government says it wants a discussion on personal data protection at the European Union Summit that begins today. National Intelligence Director James Clapper denies the allegations in a recent statement. He says the U.S. has no plans to discuss its national intelligence activities. German Chancellor Angela Merkel complained to President Barack Obama yesterday after she received information the NSA may be tapping her cell phone. (Associated Press)

  • Another Homeland Security leader is leaving the Department. Chief Financial Officer Peggy Sherry is heading to the IRS. She'll become the deputy commissioner for operations support next month. About a dozen top spots at DHS are either vacant or filled by acting executives. The IRS has gotten a slew of new leaders over the past year, including Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. (Federal News Radio)

  • A glitch in Verizon's customer web portal back in August exposed federal employees' text message histories to the public, Threatpost reports. Verizon's web app is supposed to check that the number entered into the app actually belongs to the customer. Attackers could type any phone number into Verizon's customer portal and download the target account's SMS history, but not the content of the messages. Verizon says it addressed the bug when a non-government customer pointed it out to them. (Threatpost)

  • Stumped experts at the Food and Drug Administration are appealing to pet owners for help. FDA veterinarians haven't found the cause of a poison thought to be in pet jerky made in China. The FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine has run more than 1,200 tests and visited manufacturing plants in China, but to no avail. Testing is complicated because the poison may have come from the facility or been picked up en route to its destination. Scientists have to know what they're looking for to test for it. About 580 dogs are thought to have died from the mysterious poison over the past six years. Some advocates say the government needs to do more testing and impose stricter guidelines on labeling of imports. If only part of a product is from China and it is put together here, labels don't have to say "Made in China," he said. (Associated Press)