Friday federal headlines - September 13, 2013

Friday - 9/13/2013, 10:03am 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.

  • House Democrats have introduced their own version of a continuing resolution. It would fund the government through Nov. 15 at an annual rate of just over $1 trillion. That's the amount the Budget Control Act allowed before sequestration. It's also $74 billion more than the GOP version. Because it also includes some tax hikes, it has little chance of passage. Republican leaders withdrew their bill when conservative members complained it didn't deny funding for health care insurance overhaul. Lawmakers are running out of time to act. There are just five scheduled legislative days left before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Merit Systems Protection Board reports progress in processing 32,000 furlough appeals. It says nearly all of them have been docketed, meaning they're in the queue to be reviewed by adjudicators. A few cases have been decided. A spokesman tells GovExec, as of this week the MSPB has ruled on 40 of the furlough appeals. Those came from the FAA, the EPA, the IRS and Social Security Administration. The board sided with the agency in all of them. (MSPB)
  • The General Services Administration decided two travel system providers were better than one. GSA has awarded CWTSato Travel a contract to compete with Concur Technologies for task orders to run more than 90 agency electronic travel systems. That second award ends a long struggle. GSA wanted a single contractor to replace three when it handed the deal to Concur in 2012. CWT was one of the incumbents at the time. It protested to the GAO and lost. It took its case to the Court of Federal Claims and prevailed. The court ruled the 15-year, $1.4 billion contract was too big to give one company and more than one was capable of meeting the requirements. (Federal News Radio)
  • The FBI will close headquarters and offices for 10 days over the next year to save money. The first will probably come around Thanksgiving and the second around Christmas. The New York Times reports, the Bureau spends $16 million a day on employees' compensation, the biggest part of its budget. On those furlough days, the Bureau will have only skeleton crews working. The FBI is also under a hiring freeze, with about 2,200 positions vacant. (New York Times)
  • Jeffrey Zients is returning to the Obama administration. He'll replace Gene Sperling as the president's top economic adviser. Sperling says he's leaving for personal reasons. Zients left the administration in May. He had been the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. (Associated Press)
  • Record rain and flooding has closed federal labs in Boulder, Colo. Three agencies have sites there: The National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Local authorities have ordered about 8,000 residents to evacuate as creeks rise to dangerous levels. Nearby mountain towns have been without power or telephones since late Wednesday. About 40 minutes away in Denver, federal offices are open. (Colorado Federal Executive Board)
  • The Government Accountability Office says the government can reimburse contractors for certain costs related to sequestration-related layoffs. Back in January, the Labor Department told companies, federal law does not require them to give 60-day warnings of impending job cuts. Contractors worried they'd be sued if they laid off people after failing to warn them. The Office of Management and Budget told contractors, don't worry: Follow Labor guidance and you'll be off the hook. Now the GAO has mostly concurred. It says reimbursement isn't mandatory, but it's not prohibited. It's up to the discretion of the individual contracting officer. (GAO)
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee has waded into treacherous waters. It's decided what a journalist actually is. On a 13-5 vote, it passed to the full Senate a measure to protect reporters from having to reveal their sources. But that meant having to come up with a definition of journalist to define who is covered by the bill. The protections would apply to an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have to have been employed for one year within the last 20, or three months within the last five years. The bill comes after the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed phone records and email accounts of journalists. (Associated Press)
  • The Justice Department has agreed to release parts of a 2008 court order that forced Internet search engine Yahoo to turn over customer data. Justice lawyers announced the move in a filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. They said some of the information in the opinion would remain classified and would be redacted. The court has ordered the government to conduct a "declassification review" of the 2008 order, which was part of the National Security Agency's PRISM data-gathering program. Yahoo had sought the release of the order. (Associated Press)
  • Federal authorities say a former TSA screener in Los Angeles acted alone when he made terror threats on Tuesday, the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Nna Alpha Onuoha was arrested Wednesday, the day after he quit his job. He had worked for TSA since 2006. He had been suspended for a week in July after he allegedly told a teen passenger to cover up. Investigators have not found any explosives or weapons belonging to Onuoha. But they discovered an eight-page letter that made them suspicious, given the anniversary of the terror attacks. (Associated Press)
  • The agency that safeguards the nation's nuclear stockpile isn't a good steward of its own money. Nearly every major project of the National Nuclear Security Administration is behind schedule and over budget. The Government Accountability Office says NNSA has gone over budget by $16 billion on 10 major projects. Together, they are 38 years behind schedule. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says addressing the cost overruns and security breaches at some facilities are top priorities. (Associated Press)
  • Thirteen small IT firms have won spots on a Department of Homeland Security contract for software development and IT infrastructure and maintenance. Federal Times reports, the contract known as Eagle II runs for seven years with a potential of $22 billion in business. It is an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract. (Federal Times)
  • James Clapper, the director of the Office of National Intelligence, says Edward Snowden did everyone a favor. Agencies are now focusing much more on the insider threat to cybersecurity. While working for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden downloaded voluminous secret documents and leaked them to newspapers. It sparked a national uproar. Federal Times reports, Clapper spoke to the Intelligence and National Security Alliance summit. He cited the intelligence community's project to standardize IT and improve information sharing and security. Had some of the new capabilities been in place, Clapper says, officials might have noticed Snowden's activities before it was too late. (Federal Times)
  • Some civilian defense workers will have to get flu shots this year on their own dime. It's one more thing to blame sequestration for. The Air Force Materiel Command says it will not provide the shots to those civilians who don't use TRICARE. The command would have had to buy the vaccines earlier this year, when the budget was less certain. Instead, officials spent the money on an employee assistance program, wellness screenings and health education classes. They say few civilian employees took advantage of the free shots anyway — less than 20 percent of the command's entire civilian workforce. (Air Force)