Tuesday federal headlines – July 30, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Two major cybersecurity conferences are happening this week in Las Vegas. National Security Agency Chief Keith Alexander addresses Black Hat tomorrow. Def Con starts later this week. Organizers have asked federal employees to stay away. They say the hacking community needs a time out to digest the NSA surveillance tactics revealed by Edward Snowden. They later clarified that statement to explain they welcome feds coming on their own dime without their official government IDs. (Def Con/Black Hat)
  • Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee want to help the government dispose of excess property. A new, bipartisan bill would set into law an Obama administration effort to sell outdated or unneeded buildings. It would require agencies to take inventories of their property and generate reduction goals. It would establish a Federal Real Property Council. The council’s job would be to create an annual governmentwide plan for property reduction. The bill would also give the Office of Management and Budget authority to dispose of 200 properties a year. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
  • The National Labor Relations Board could soon find itself out of legal limbo. The Senate meets today to consider nominees to fill the two remaining slots on the five-member board. They are compromise picks. President Barack Obama nominated NLRB counsel Kent Hirozawa and labor attorney Nancy Schiffer after withdrawing the names of two candidates that faced Republican opposition. Democrats are hoping to confirm both of them and current board Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce by day’s end. Federal appeals courts have placed recent NLRB decisions in question because the board was filled with recess appointments. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue later this year. (Federal News Radio)
  • After a long trial, a military judge will announce her decision on the fate of Army Pvt. Bradley Manning this afternoon. Manning is charged with leaking secret military and State Department documents to the WikiLeaks website in 2010. At the time, he was working in what the Army calls a tactical-sensitive, compartmented information facility near Baghdad. Manning already pleaded guilty to 10 charges that will put him in prison for up to 20 years. If convicted on 11 other charges, he could face life in prison for aiding the enemy. The court martial judge is Col. Denise Lind. Manning chose a single judge instead of a panel. (DoD)
  • Saddam Hussein was hanged in 2006. And now the United States has returned one of his baubles to Iraq. Immigration and Customer Enforcement officials handed over a gold-encrusted sword to the Iraqi ambassador in Washington. Agents had seized it from an auction house in New Hampshire. The auctioneers say the sword was brought into the United States by a military historian. But federal officials say the 43-inch sword was a gift to Hussein and not a military weapon. Therefore it could not be considered a war trophy. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Department is close to reducing the number of furlough days civilian employees face this fiscal year. Instead of 11, they are likely to have six to eight unpaid days off. That’s because Pentagon leaders have scrounged up $900 million in other savings. Sources told the Associated Press, the brass haven’t made a final decision. Six hundred and fifty thousand civilians have started their fourth week shortened by a furlough day. Whatever changes occur this year won’t affect the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. (Federal News Radio)
  • Most Americans doubt the law provides adequate limits on government data collection. The Pew Research Group found that 70 percent of respondents to a new poll said they think the government is gathering information to stop terrorism and a lot more. Most respondents said the government is listening to phone conversations and reading emails despite the National Security Agency’s assurances that it collects only metadata like the date and time an email was sent. And yet, half of the people surveyed said they approved of the data collection program as part of anti-terrorism efforts. (Pew Research Group)
  • The Senate has confirmed James Comey as the new FBI director. Only one senator, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), voted against him. Comey will succeed Robert Mueller, who steps down in September after 12 years on the job. The FBI director normally serves a 10-year term. Comey was second-in-command at the Justice Department under President George W Bush. He sided with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in opposing a warrantless wiretapping program instituted after the 9-11 attacks. At the time, Ashcroft was hospitalized and Comey was acting attorney general. (Federal News Radio)
  • You might see earlier and better fixes to security bugs in Microsoft software. The company has updated its patching system called Microsoft Active Protections Program. Computer World reports, Microsoft will give trusted companies patch information three days ahead of release, instead of one day. They’ll also receive more details about the security flaws. Microsoft says the extra two days will give recipients more time to repair and test their own software. The new plan is called MAPP for Security Vendors. Microsoft will give some security vendors two weeks notice of how to spot attacks against particular security bugs. (Computer World)
  • Federal leaders cut the ribbon at the new Coast Guard headquarters at Saint Elizabeth’s campus in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called it a major step forward in consolidating 35 Homeland Security Department offices on one campus. The first phase of the Coast Guard’s facilities includes a new, 1.2 million-square-foot building and a parking garage for 2,000 cars. The Coast Guard will move staff onto the campus over the next four months, mostly on weekends to avoid disruptions. The entire construction project has been delayed because of budget cuts. DHS now says it will be done by 2026. (DHS)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration has certified two types of unmanned aircraft or drones for civilian use. The agency says it’s a giant leap forward in its efforts to integrate drones into American airspace. The two systems are Insitu’s Scan Eagle X-200 and AeroVironment’s PUMA. Both weigh less than 55 pounds. They are about 4-1/2 feet long and have wingspans of 9 to 10 feet. Both are headed to Alaska. The FAA says a major energy company will fly one next month to survey ice floes and migrating whales. Emergency crews will use the other to monitor oil spills and look for wildlife. (Federal News Radio)