Friday morning federal headlines – June 29, 2012

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.

  • A long-serving chief information officer at the State Department is stepping down. Susan Swart will become CIO of the International Monetary Fund. She joined the State Department in 1989 and became CIO in 2008. She oversaw an IT budget of close to $1 billion. Earlier in her career, Swart held several overseas assignments as a member of the Senior Foreign Service. More recently, she worked on State Department projects for communications, mobile applications and data center consolidation. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal employees’ retirement benefits stay unchanged in a tentative deal to fund federal highway projects. The compromise bill must still be voted by the full House and Senate. Earlier versions would have increased the contribution federal employees make to their pensions. The deal also allows retirement-eligible feds to opt for partial retirement so they can work part time. If the legislation passes, it would spare 3,500 Transportation employees from being furloughed. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama will veto House appropriations bills for the Defense Department and Financial Services and General Government if they remain in their current form. The White House opposes them for several reasons. They would continue the pay freeze for federal workers, and the White House said proposed cuts to the Internal Revenue Service budget would hurt programs, reduce revenue and make it harder for taxpayers to get help. It also said the bill would make it harder for the General Services Administration to repair and maintain federal buildings. Lawmakers said cuts to GSA’s budget were necessary to “starve out opulence and frivolity.” (Federal News Radio)
  • The federal contractor running several governmentwide websites is under investigation by the FBI. An informant alleges Symplicity Corporation tried to obtain information from its competitors by hacking their networks. The FBI received a tip from a former Symplicity employee back in November. Documents obtained by Federal News Radio show the company wanted information about the other companies’ customers. Symplicity’s CEO, Ariel Friedler, denies the charges. So far this year Symplicity has won $30 million in federal business. The investigation doesn’t put those contracts in danger, although the company could face suspension or debarment. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration is offering buyouts again to select workers. The Federal Times reported it was the second of three planned rounds targeted mostly towards staff in the D.C. headquarters. GSA offered the first round in January. At that time, officials said they hoped to cut 600 positions or about 5 percent of GSA’s workforce. They said this wasn’t because of financial pressures, rather the agency needs to align its skills with its customers’ needs. Employees who received an offer this week include IT and financial staff, public-buildings managers and human resources staff. (Federal Times)
  • A Democratic congressman has introduced legislation that would grant benefits to same-sex spouses of veterans and service members. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash) is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. His bill would make the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments recognize any marriage that is recognized by a U.S. state, commonwealth, territory or the District of Columbia. The bill would change the definition of spouse in the U.S. code. Same-sex marriage is now legal in six states and the District of Columbia. (Federal News Radio)
  • While most people were focused on the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act decision, justices slipped out another ruling. The court ruled the 2006 Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional. The law had made lying about receiving military awards a crime. A California man who lied about being a decorated war hero brought the suit. Xavier Alvarez successfully argued that the law violated his First Amendment right to free speech. The government had tried to convince the Court that the law protected the integrity of military medals. It is still illegal to wear unearned medals, even if you can now lie about having them. (Supreme Court)
  • In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a bill that would expand a State Department rewards program, targeting human rights abusers. The bill would give the Secretary of State more authority in offering rewards that lead to the arrest of accused war criminals. Both Republicans and Democrats cited the hunt for central African warlord Joseph Kony as a motivating factor. Kony is accused of kidnapping thousands of children and turning them into soldiers. He’s evaded capture for more than 26 years. Last year, President Barack Obama sent 100 special forces troops to central Africa to advise regional forces on their hunt for Kony. That move also received support from both sides of the political aisle. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Va.) said U.S. military advisers have requested the expansion of the rewards program. (Federal News Radio)