Friday federal headlines - September 27, 2013

Friday - 9/27/2013, 9:42am 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.

  • The Senate will vote today on a six-week continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown Monday night. Senators stripped the bill of a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act the House had included. Speaker John Boehner says the so-called clean CR won't pass the House. Either way, the House now must work through the weekend to have any chance of keeping the government going. But Boehner has not released a list of amendments the House may add. Republicans disagree among one another over how to proceed. (Associated Press)
  • Agencies are notifying both employees and contractors about plans should the government shut down. In a FedBizOps post, Homeland Security Chief Procurement Officer Nick Nayak is blunt. He tells contractors planned buys might be canceled and existing contracts stopped. But he says contracting officers will notify affected businesses. The Commerce Department issues a similar notice. It says access to facilities would be cut off. But officials there say service and supply contracts that don't require access may continue, but only if a supply officer is on duty to receive material. (Federal News Radio)
  • In a briefing later today, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale will detail the Defense Department's actions under a government shutdown. But in the meantime, leaders of the armed services are trying to answer basic questions. Navy Vice Adm. Bill Moran says in a blog post, if a shutdown occurs, all Navy personnel would report to work on their next scheduled duty day to receive further instructions. Everyone will get paid on Oct. 1. He says some credit unions, like Navy Federal, are volunteering to cover military customers' next paycheck on Oct. 15. Moran says he doesn't know if there is still time for Congress to prevent a shutdown. (Navy)
  • More than a third of federal workers would be told to stay home if the government shuts down, forcing the closure of Smithsonian museums and national parks. Workers at the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs wouldn't be around to process visa and passport applications. Federal managers at several agencies spent yesterday telling employees whether they were essential enough to come to work during a shut down. In a letter to EPA employees, Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe says that label doesn't reflect the quality of someone's work or their importance to the agency, but it's a result of legal requirements. The shutdown could come Tuesday if Congress fails to pass a funding bill. (Associated Press)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration could ease restrictions on airline passengers' use of smartphones, tablets, e-readers and other personal electronic devices. An advisory committee has recommended letting passengers use most devices during take offs and landings. Talking on the phone or surfing the web would still be off-limits. The FAA imposed the rules to limit electronic interference with critical cockpit equipment. But that problem isn't as likely in newer planes. Congress has pressured the FAA to change the rules. (Associated Press)
  • Unmanned aircraft find growing favor with the Justice Department. A new report from inspector general Michael Horowitz shows Justice has spent $5 million so far on drones. That includes more than $1 million in grants to local police departments clamoring for them. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plans to use drones in its operations. The FBI says it has used them occasionally. But the Marshals Service and Drug Enforcement Administration both say they have no plans for drones. The IG says Justice needs more oversight and coordination. (Associated Press)
  • Federal agencies have been steadily increasing their use of encryption technology to secure data. That requires management of keys, the pieces of software that encrypt and decrypt files. The National Institute of Standards and Technology plans a workshop next spring to help refine its guidance on how to use and manage crypto keys. The workshop will take place March 4 and 5. NIST IT Lab officials want to polish a new draft of Special Publication 800-152, titled, a profile for U.S Federal Cryptographic Key Management. They say the draft will be available for comment before the workshop. (NIST)
  • Lawmakers are moving quickly to keep a federal helium reserve going. The Senate has followed the House's lead in voting to maintain the program. It provides 42 percent of the nation's helium from a storage site near Amarillo, Texas. Current law requires the program to end in two weeks, but that could cause a shortage in the chemical. Helium isn't just for floating balloons. Lawmakers say a shortage could slow production of computer chips and optical fibers and have ramifications for the defense and medical industries. (Associated Press)
  • Three Homeland Security Department officials move up a notch into acting capacities. Rand Beers moves up from deputy secretary to become acting secretary. Rafael Borras replaces Beers as acting deputy. Chris Cumminsky replaces Borras as acting undersecretary for management. President Barack Obama has not yet nominated anyone to become secretary. The nomination of Alexander Mayorkas as deputy secretary is held up in the Senate. Now twelve of the top DHS leadership positions are held by acting officials. (Federal News Radio)