Monday morning federal headlines – Feb. 6, 2012

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive host Tom Temin discuss throughout the show each day. The newscast is gives users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Congress will consider a freeze on in-grade pay increases in 2012. That provision is part of a bill mainly aimed at appropriations transparency. It would toughen the pay freeze already in effect by stopping so-called step increases. The 2012 Honest Budget Act was introduced by Alabama Republican Martha Roby. The bill would also make it harder to pass appropriations bills until a budget was approved. (Federal News Radio)
  • Industry is balking at cybersecurity legislation developing in the Senate. The bill would give the Homeland Security Department authority to regulate cyber practices of companies who operate critical infrastructure. In the bill, critical means interruption could threaten life, national security or the economy. Homeland Security, with input from business, would select which companies to regulate. Some operators feel the bill goes too far. It’s expected out of committee within a few weeks. (Associated Press)
  • A lot of publicly-held companies aren’t paying much heed to new Securities and Exchange guidance that urges firms to disclose cyber attacks to investors. That’s according to a new review of SEC filings by Reuters. The news agency studied the filings of two thousand companies, and found that most of them used vague, boilerplate language to describe their cyber risk. It identified a half dozen cases where major cyber attacks against companies had been reported in the press but left out of the companies’ official disclosures to investors. The new SEC guidance has only been in effect for one fiscal quarter. The agency published its recommendations in October.
  • The Air Force plans to cut its ranks by about 10,000 airmen over the next five years. And the service is now saying those cuts will fall heavily on the National Guard. 3,900 active duty personnel will be cut, as will 900 members of the Air Force reserve. The Air National Guard’s ranks will go down by 5,100. The personnel reductions are a direct result of the shrinking number of aircraft the service will operate. In its 2013 budget, the Air Force will propose to get rid of 227 planes in its current inventory. That’s part of a larger reduction of 286 aircraft over the next five years. Leaders say they’ve taken steps to mitigate the impact the changes will have on individual bases by remissioning certain units and creating more partnerships between active component Air Force units and members of the reserve components. (Federal News Radio)
  • The leader of the Army’s 13th Sustainment Command has died in Afghanistan, according to Defense Department officials. Brigadier General Terence Hildner died Friday of what the Pentagon says were apparent natural causes, though they say the death is under investigation. Hildner listed his home as Fairfax, Va. His father told the Washington Post it’s likely the general suffered a heart attack. He was 49. Hildner deployed to Afghanistan in December to take over the management of military supplies for the NATO training mission there. (Associated Press)
  • Luke McCormack will join the Justice Department as its new CIO. He’s been CIO of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement directorate at Homeland Security since 2005. McCormack will move to Justice in late March, taking over for Van Hitch, who retired last summer. Eric Olson has been acting CIO since Hitch left in July. He’ll return to his deputy post when McCormack comes on board. As CIO, McCormack will oversee several data sharing projects, including the Law Enforcement Information Sharing Program and the Logical Entity Exchange Specification and the National Information Exchange Model. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs says it’s cutting out paperwork for servicemembers returning from deployment. The VA’s Veterans Health Administration is debuting a new system that lets new veterans apply for benefits online. It’s a streamlined version of the VA form 1010-EZ, and the agency says it’ll cut down the time it takes to process a new application for health benefits from 10 days down to just three. VA says quick enrollment is important for returning combat veterans, because they’re eligible for five years of cost-free care and medications for conditions potentially related to combat service. The departments plans to start deploying the system nationwide by early spring. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • President Obama has nominated Joseph Jordan to head the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Jordan has worked at the Office of Management and Budget since December. He’s been senior advisor to acting director Jeffrey Zients. Before that, Jordan was associate administrator for government contracting and small business development at at the Small Business Administration. Jordan was a manager at McKinsey and Company before joining SBA. The president also will nominate Heidi Shyu for assistant secetary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology. She’s held the job in an acting capacity since June. (Federal News Radio)
  • Amtrak is telling lawmakers that it’s becoming less reliant on federal subsidies to operate the nation’s passenger rail system. The National Passenger Rail Corporation says because of record ridership and more efficient operations, it’ll ask Congress for $450 million in federal operating support next year. That’s $16 million less than it got this year. But operating costs aren’t the whole story. Amtrak also plans to ask Congress for $1.4 billion in capital and infrastructure funding. That’s more than twice what it got this year. Officials say that’s because the rail operator needs to move beyond maintaining its existing equipment and infrastructure, and start making improvements. It also wants to start addressing a backlog of deferred maintenance from prior years. (Amtrak)