Friday morning federal headlines – April 26, 2013

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 users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Cisco releases three security advisories to address vulnerabilities affecting three of their systems: Cisco NX-OS-based products, Cisco Device Manager and Cisco Unified Computing System. These vulnerabilities may allow an attacker to bypass authentication controls, obtain sensitive information or cause a denial-of-service condition.US-CERT encourages users and administrators to review the Cisco security advisories and apply any necessary updates to help mitigate the risks. (US-CERT)
  • The Senate has passed a bill to put air-traffic controllers back to work and bring relief to millions of travelers. The measure would effectively end the furloughs that began Sunday. It would give the FAA permission to transfer up to $253 million to pay for operations and staffing. The FAA says furloughs of air- traffic controllers led to more than 860 flight delays Wednesday. The bill is expected to pass the House and soon. But some GOP members question whether the FAA really had to furlough controllers because of sequestration. They continue to demand answers from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. (Federal News Radio)
  • Did gaps in federal regulations contribute to the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas? Congressional Democrats want to know. They have asked the Government Accountability Office to check whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration should have been monitoring conditions inside the plant. OSHA is responsible for making sure more than 7 million workplaces are safe. But some facilities with fewer than ten employees are exempt from oversight. Conflicting reports show the West Texas plant might have had 13 employees or just seven. OSHA last inspected it in 1985. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate likely will not vote on a cybersecurity bill that passed the House earlier this month. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA, passed in the House and would give businesses and federal government legal protection to share information on cyber threats with each other. Key senators are working on their own legislation instead of voting on CISPA. According to the Huffington Post, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will work on a separate information sharing bill. (Huffington Post)
  • A new hotline established for women veterans has been up and running for a month now. It’s part of an ongoing effort to make military women aware of the care and services available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The number of women in the military has more than doubled since 2000. They now make up nearly 15 percent of active duty and 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces. Irene Trowell-Harris, director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans said, “Many women who served don’t self-identify as veterans, and therefore don’t think they qualify for VA benefits.” (Defense)
  • President Barack Obama is nominating Howard Shelanski to be the government’s top regulator. If confirmed, Shelanski would lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He’d fill a position that has been vacant since Cass Sunstein stepped down in August. Shelanski now works as an economist for the Federal Trade Commission. He’s taught anti-trust, contracts and economics at Georgetown Law School. He served in the Clinton White House as senior economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and he’s clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Pentagon is downplaying a comment by one of its officials about the ability of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to survive a cyber attack, reports Reuters. The Pentagon’s F-35 program office issued a statement that DoD was fully aware of evolving cyber threats and is taking specific action to counter them for the F-35. Christopher Bodgan, the F- 35 program manager, told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee Wednesday that he was not that confident about security implemented by the companies that build the plane. Lockheed Martin and its partners refuted Bogdan’s comments saying the company had made significant investments and progress in countering cyber attacks. (Reuters)
  • Gen. Martin Dempsey says the Department of Defense will continue to work closely with Japan in order to deal with the nuclear threats from North Korea. Dempsey met with Japan’s top defense officials at the end of his weeklong trip to Asia. Dempsey pledged his commitment to the U.S.-Japan security pact whereby DoD stations nearly 50,000 troops in Japan and is obligated to defend Japanese territory. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development is closing dozens of field offices. Ten percent of staff or about 900 people could be affected. But Secretary Shaun Donovan said they won’t be laid off. He announced the reorganization in a video posted on You Tube. He said staff will have a transition period to consider moving or retiring early. The consolidation mostly impacts HUD’s multifamily housing program. The department will merge 50 field offices nationwide into just 10. They will, in turn, report to five hubs in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Fort Worth and San Francisco. In addition, the department will close 16 branches of its office of field policy and management. HUD estimates savings at more than $50 million. (Federal News Radio)
  • A federal judge has told the Food and Drug Administration it has broken the law by being too slow on food safety regulations. The 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act required the FDA to write new rules for seven areas of food production by last July. The FDA claims that timeline was aggressive given the complexity of the job. But Reuters reports the U.S. district judge sided with the two non-profits that sued the FDA. She ordered the agency to work with the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health on a timetable. The FDA has finished some of the rules, but they are at the White House awaiting approval. (Reuters)