Friday federal headlines - November 1, 2013

Friday - 11/1/2013, 7:57am 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.

  • Federal officials say they're retooling the government's security clearance system. That includes the process of re-evaluating the behavior of employees and contractors who have access to sensitive information. And, at yesterday's Senate hearing, a White House aide said the Office of Management and Budget would start its own 120-day review next week. The hearing, and the proposed changes, were touched off by last month's Navy Yard shootings. A deranged former Navy reservist with security clearance killed 12 people. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said it might be time to reconsider whether private companies should perform clearance checks on behalf of the government. (Federal News Radio)

  • In its push to show HealthCare.gov is getting better, the Health and Human Services Department is naming names. Specifically, Michael Dickerson of Google and Greg Gershman, an entrepreneur and former presidential innovation fellow. Both are helping the leading contractors fix the glitches that have made HealthCare.gov a punchline. HHS says it's also borrowing tech experts from Red Hat and Oracle. Meanwhile, under the Affordable Care Act, members of Congress are facing their own deadline. They have to decide which staff members can stay on federal health insurance and which have to buy insurance through the health-care insurance exchanges. House Speaker John Boehner and all four Senate GOP leaders have put their entire staffs into the exchanges. Many Democrats are keeping leadership and committee aides on federal insurance. (Health and Human Services)

  • The performance failings of HealthCare.gov have been well documented. But the site also has cybersecurity issues. Internal Health and Human Services memos show the site was not tested completely for cyber vulnerabilities before it went live a month ago. It's authority to operate is temporary. The temporary certificate was approved by Medicare Chief Marilyn Tavenner. HHS officials insist individual citizens' data is safe, even though staff members called for a six-month cyber mitigation program. In Congressional testimony, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promised the site would be fixed by Nov. 30. (Associated Press)

  • Senate Republicans have blocked two key Obama administration appointees. Separate votes failed to overcome opposition to Patricia Millett to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and for Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The blockage has renewed Democratic calls to end the rule requiring 60-vote minimums to overcome filibusters and blocked nominations. (Associated Press)

  • Homeland Security employees are abusing an overtime program meant to give law enforcement flexibility when fighting crime. In a letter to the president, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner says employees with desk jobs in Washington or training responsibilities routinely file for Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, or AUO. She says it costs the government at least $8.7 million a year. Her report is based on six whistleblowers' allegations. One of them says Customs and Border Protection employees assigned to the commissioner's situation room in Washington are billing for overtime, which they spend watching TV, surfing the Internet or otherwise relaxing. (Associated Press)

  • In a speech last night, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tore into states that defy Pentagon policy to issue ID cards to same-sex spouses of military members. "This is wrong," he said at a dinner of the Anti-Defamation League. He did not mention the states by name, but the Pentagon does. They are Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana Mississippi Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. The Pentagon says Army and Air National Guard stations aren't issuing the cards. As a result, Hagel said, couples have to travel far to federal military bases to get the ID cards. The cards let spouses claim military benefits. (Associated Press)

  • The Navy can move ahead with building its Next Generation Enterprise Network. The Government Accountability Office has dismissed an award protest by Harris IT, upholding the Navy's award to Hewlett Packard. The $3.5 billion NGEN project will replace the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. Harris' protest said HP's price was unreasonable, but the GAO disagreed. CSC had also protested but withdrew its objection in August. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Defense Department will give vendors a 20-day notice if it plans to insource work the companies are doing. The notice was called for in the 2012 Defense Authorization Act. DoD published an interim rule in the Federal Register yesterday. Interim rules take effect immediately even though there is a public comment period. Notices must explain why contracted work is being converted to in-house. And a copy must go to congressional Defense committees. Earlier DoD policy outlined several justifications for insourcing, mainly if the work is inherently governmental and should not have been outsourced in the first place. (Federal News Radio)

  • Most agencies chose to furlough their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officers during the government shutdown, but the Justice Department says that's no excuse for flaunting open-records deadlines. It says agencies should count those 11 weekdays as part of their response times. But, it adds, it hopes those wanting the records understand the shutdown's impact on their requests. The National Archives recommends FOIA officers pick up the phone or send the requesters notes to let them know about the delay and an estimated completion date. (Justice Department)

  • In recent weeks, President Barack Obama has told the National Security Agency to stop spying on the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. An administration official tells Reuters the orders come as part of a review of NSA surveillance programs, all in the wake of leaks by former analyst Edward Snowden. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee has approved modest limits on NSA data collection. It would increase Congressional oversight of intelligence activities. At the same time, it would create a 10-year prison sentence for people who steal classified information. Critics say it would do little, if anything, to curb the NSA's programs. (Reuters)