Thursday federal headlines - October 10, 2013

Thursday - 10/10/2013, 10:07am 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.

  • It's day 10 of the shutdown. House Republican leaders head to the White House for a session, which President Barack Obama refuses to call a negotiation. But there's talk of a short-term compromise. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission shuts down most operations today as 2013 money runs out. Reactor inspectors will stay on the job. VA closes regional offices. Federal courts say they'll run out of money Tuesday. The Fisher House Foundation rescues the Pentagon. It agrees to advance military death benefits until the Defense Department can re-pay them. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration furloughs employees who investigate safety complaints and order car recalls. (Federal News Radio)

  • Republican House members meet with President Obama today, as both sides look for a way to get past the government shutdown. No one has publicly backed down from hardened positions. But Republicans say they might go for a short term extension of the federal debt ceiling. That would buy more time for talks on long-term issues, namely the health care law and entitlement reform. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew plans another dire warning about the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling when the Treasury runs out of money later this month. (Associated Press)

  • Several banks are stepping in to help federal employees facing hardship. GovExec reports, TD Bank will advance furloughed feds $1000, interest-free. It will reimburse late fees on credit cards and even adjust mortgage payments through Nov. 2. The Navy Federal Credit Union offers reduced rates on its overdraft line of credit. It will expedite approvals for increases in credit limits. Capital One posts a message on its website. It says it's prepared to help people with the "unanticipated financial challenges" the shutdown has presented. Car maker Hyundai offers furloughed feds a payment deferral program during the shutdown. (GovExec)

  • A charity has stepped in to help family members of fallen service members. The Fisher House Foundation will provide the full set of benefits, including $100,000 death payments. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says he is offended, outraged and embarrassed that the Pentagon cannot do it because of the shutdown. The department will reimburse the Fisher House after the shutdown ends. Meanwhile, a bill is moving through Congress to let the Pentagon resume payments before then. (Defense Department)

  • The Navy has taken the rare step of firing a three-star admiral because of a gambling scandal. Vice Adm. Tim Giardina is being removed from his post at Strategic Command, which oversees nuclear warfighting forces. Giardina will be reassigned to Navy staff pending the outcome of an investigation into whether he used fake chips at an Iowa casino. The decision to relieve him of duty began with his commander and required approval from both Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and President Barack Obama. (Associated Press)

  • Two Defense Department agencies move ahead with plans for technology upgrades once government operations return to normal. In FedBizOpps, the Health Management Systems Modernization Program called for sources of off-the-shelf electronic health records. Planners want to eventually replace the system now in use. The Defense Intelligence Agency issued a draft request for proposals for a $6 billion project called Enhanced Solutions for the information Technology Enterprise, or E- SITE. Officials want to replace an existing multiple award contract by May of 2015. DIA canceled today's industry dog-and-pony show because of the shutdown. (Federal News Radio)

  • Police in Wheeling, W.Va., are trying to find out why one of their own shot at a federal courthouse yesterday. Retired officer Thomas Piccard fired up to two dozen shots before being killed. Three on-duty security officers were injured by flying debris. The courthouse includes the offices of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement. The U.S. Attorney says 40 percent of his staff wasn't there. They were at home on furlough. Bill Ihlenfeld said the court's security plans didn't work because so many people weren't there. He did not elaborate. (Associated Press)
  • The head of the National Security Agency is appealing to the cybersecurity industry to defend his agency's surveillance programs. Speaking at a Maryland conference, Army Gen. Keith Alexander says media reports have focused on what the NSA could be doing with the data it gathers, rather than what it actually is doing. He calls the reporting "sensationalized" and says it could impact cyber legislation in Congress. Meanwhile, the open-records website MuckRock says the NSA has seen a 1000 percent rise in Freedom of Information Act requests since Edward Snowden began leaking information. (MuckRock)

  • Federal computers stand in danger of being left vulnerable to the latest cybersecurity threats. That goes for both servers and desktop PCs. Microsoft this week issued 26 security patches for a variety of operating systems. But only skeleton IT staffs are on duty at many agencies. John Pescatore is director of emerging technologies at the SANS Institute. He tells Computerworld, if furloughed workers' machines are turned off, they are difficult to patch. Those machines would be open to attack when employees return and flip them back on. But Pescatore says most of the government's security staff was considered essential and remains on the job. (ComputerWorld)

  • The underdog has beaten the incumbent in the race to lead the American Postal Workers Union. Members chose Mark Dimondstein over current president Cliff Guffey. In a campaign statement, Dimondstein says there's no magic wand, but he'll establish a national program to retain full-time jobs, fight plant mergers and post-office closures. The Postal Service is pressuring all labor groups to make concessions as it tries to cut its workforce and streamline its network. APWU represents nearly 200,000 postal employees. It re-negotiates its contract with the Postal Service in 2015. (APWU)