Tuesday federal headlines - July 23, 2013

Tuesday - 7/23/2013, 10:21am 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.

  • One of the Pentagon's most respected civilian leaders is stepping down. Dave Wennegren has worked for more than 30 years in technology and management for the federal government. Currently, the assistant deputy chief management officer for DoD, Wennergren says he'll retire in August. His going away party is scheduled for Aug. 1. Wennergren has been CIO of the Navy, deputy Defense CIO and director of the Business Transformation Agency. He was vice chairman of the CIO council for five years. (Federal News Radio)
  • Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin plans to step down next month after more than four years in office. Wolin was an important advisor to former Secretary Timothy Geithner, the Wall Street Journal reported. He was the administration's point man for the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill. Sources tell the Journal, the White House is looking for someone with markets and regulatory experience. Wolin had wanted to go earlier, but agreed to help the new Secretary, Jacob Lew, get settled in. Robert Khuzami, the former enforcement chief at the Securities and Exchange Commission, will join the law firm Kirkland and Ellis. He'll reportedly be paid $5 million a year. The SEC's Kenneth Lench, head of the new products enforcement unit, will step down. He's also headed to Kirkland and Ellis, the Journal reports. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Managing federal workforce policy, from hiring procedures to snow emergencies, takes a lot of diplomatic skill. But does it prepare someone for life as an ambassador? Former Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry will say "yes" today. President Barack Obama has nominated Berry to be the next ambassador to Australia. The Senate confirmation hearing is today. (U.S. Senate)
  • The Homeland Security Department has extended its 10-year relationship with Unisys. It awarded a five-year deal worth up to $460 million to enhance border security management systems. The award came from Customs and Border Protection. Unisys will perform a variety of tasks, including new systems engineering, development and maintenance. The company will also provide technical support people. The work will come under a CPB program called Border Enforcement and Management Systems. (Federal News Radio)
  • Republican lawmakers introduced bills to end paying federal employees to work on union activities. The practice is known as official time. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) calls it a grievous violation of the public's trust. His Federal Employee Accountability Act is a one-page bill with 13 sponsors. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) sponsored a similar House bill in January. The Senate version is stricter, eliminating official time altogether. The House version permits it under some circumstances.The Office of Personnel Management calculates that in 2011, federal employees spent an average of just under three hours per year on union work. (Federal News Radio)
  • New EPA Chief Gina McCarthy has been on the job less than three days, but that's not stopping House Republicans from accusing her of obstructing an investigation. The leaders of the Science Committee are asking McCarthy to hand over hundreds of pages of research. The lawmakers say they want to see the data that supports health benefits claims, justifying virtually every Clean Air Act regulation to come from the Obama Administration. In a letter to McCarthy, the lawmakers say they've been waiting for more than two years. McCarthy was sworn in Friday as EPA Administrator. She served as head of the Office of Air and Radiation before that. (U.S. House of Representatives)
  • An odd coalition of Democratic liberals and Republican conservatives wants to put the lid on National Security Agency surveillance. Their strategy? Amendments to the House 2014 Defense Appropriations Bill. The bill comes up for debate today. The lawmakers hope to curtail NSA's gathering of telecommunications data on Americans. That program became public thanks to leaks by former NSA contractor employee Edward Snowden. Republican leadership has been trying to limit amendments to the spending bill. Another add-on would stop aid to Syrian rebels without congressional approval. (Federal News Radio)
  • A Navy aircraft carrier docked by sequestration is setting sail. The USS Harry S. Truman left its home port of Norfolk yesterday to head to the Persian Gulf. The Navy says it will be at sea for up to nine months. The Navy postponed the Truman's deployment back in February in efforts to save money on fuel and supplies. The Daily Press reports, the Truman is now home to three strike fighter squadrons, a Marine fighter attack squadron, airborne early warning aircraft, electronic attack aircraft and two helicopter squadrons. (Daily Press)
  • Are sequestration and furloughs leading you to hold tighter to your money? The board that runs the Thrift Savings Plan wants to know. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board is surveying plan participants this fall. Board Director of Enterprise Planning Renee Wilder tells Federal Times, participation has dropped to a 12-month low. About 2.4 million federal employees are saving for retirement through the TSP. (Federal Times)
  • The State Department office in charge of cybersecurity isn't really doing its job. The Bureau of Information Resource Management's Office of Information Assurance is supposed to make sure the State Department's IT systems fulfill federal security requirements. But the inspector general says the office hasn't updated the department's regulations in years, leaving systems vulnerable. Other divisions have stepped in to fill the void. Now employees are confused about what exactly they're supposed to do. The State Department is considering expanding and elevating the office. Not a good idea, says the inspector general. (U.S. Department of State)
  • No one knows how much cyber crime and cyber espionage cost the world economy. But security company McAfee, working with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has tried to put a number on it. Its best guess is as much as $400 billion annually. To put the losses in perspective, McAfee points out that car crashes cause less than half that amount. But all other crime, at $870 billion, costs more than twice as much. McAfee says the monetary losses don't tell the whole story. That's because it's impossible to quantify damage to reputation, lost opportunity and interrupted service. The researchers also point out, $400 billion is a fraction of 1 percent of the total world economy. (McAfee)
  • The Patent and Trademark Office would expand under a bill introduced by two lawmakers. Reps. Darrell Issa (R- Calif.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) want PTO to reign in patent trolls. Their measure would require the agency to review existing business-method patents, especially those for software and computers. The House members say litigation abuse in the industry has run rampant. PTO has the same authority over financial products now. The bill mirrors one in the Senate. President Barack Obama last month urged Congress to crack down on firms that acquire patents but never use them. (U.S. House of Representatives)