Monday federal headlines – April 22, 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.

  • All 90,000 employees at the Internal Revenue Service will begin to receive their furlough notices today — including Acting Commissioner Steven Miller. The agency has planned five days of furloughs between May 24 and August 30. Offices and call centers will be unavailable to employees and to the public on those days. (Federal News Radio)
  • Commercial airline flights mostly moved without delays Sunday, the first day of furloughs for federal air traffic controllers. However, the tracking website FlightAware reported 70-minute delays at New York area airports because of staff reductions. The FAA said flights headed into Los Angeles were delayed an average of three hours. This morning will be more telling as weekday air traffic picks up. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Veterans Affairs Department announced a new plan to expedite disability claims from the veterans who have waited the longest. VA says it is making provisional decisions on claims that are at least a year old. It will use the evidence at hand. The agency is responding to criticism about the soaring number of claims that have been pending for longer than 125 days. The VA said that of the nearly 900,000 claims pending in the system, some 250,000 are from veterans who have been waiting at least a year for a decision. (Federal News Radio)
  • Lawmakers are questioning whether the 60-year-old federal pay scale is still appropriate. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has requested a study from the Government Accountability Office, according to the Washington Post. The request calls for GAO to identify the attributes of a modern, effective, classification system and then determine if the current General Schedule system stacks up. GAO is expected to begin work in May. (Washington Post)
  • The Pentagon will ask Congress for reprogramming authority over $7.5 billion in the current fiscal year. Some of the money-shifting would take place in the base budget and some would help with the contingency budget for operations in Afghanistan, according to Defense News. DoD officials hope to receive permission by the end of May. (Defense News)
  • An Air Force Academy cyber warrior team has won this year’s Cyber Defense Exercise — a competition among military schools. The teams spent three days in a simulated cyber war. A team from the National Security Agency played the bad guys. Participants also came from the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine academies. The round-the-clock games are designed to give students experience close to what they might encounter in real life. (Reuters)
  • The SANS Institute has a new tool to make it easier for you to hire cybersecurity professionals. The organization says its CyberTalent Assessments tool helps recruiters save time and increase their pool of qualified candidates. The tool tests a job applicant’s knowledge in communications, Internet and operating-systems security, and more general networking concepts. SANS contends that resumes and even certification and training qualifications are not as specific. (SANS Institute)
  • Troops at Guantanamo Bay are responding to a lot of ‘code yellow’ alerts these days. The military says just over half of the Guantanamo Bay inmates are on a hunger strike. Sixteen are being force-fed and five have been hospitalized with non-life threatening conditions. The strike started months ago among just a few inmates. It spread to 84 last week after guards and prisoners clashed. Commanders decided to move every prisoner back to individual cells citing security concerns. (Reuters)
  • For federal authorities, the Boston Marathon bombing now moves into the how-and-why stage. The bombing and bloody chase that followed killed five people, including one of the suspects. FBI officials are trying to find out if and where the dead suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was radicalized. Investigators in Boston were able to communicate with his brother Sunday night. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev remains hospitalized with serious wounds. FBI agents are also trying to question Tamerlan’s wife. The FBI says it investigated Tamerlan in 2011 upon a request from Russian intelligence officials. (Federal News Radio)
  • The space race between two commercial companies grew more competitive over the weekend. At precisely 5:00 p.m. Sunday, Orbital Sciences successfully launched a rocket and put a dummy payload into orbit. The Dulles-based company is one of two companies NASA will use to ferry supplies and people to the International Space Station. The Orbital launch occurred at Wallops Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore after two delays. NASA hired Space-X back in 2006. (WTOP)
  • Nearly 70 federal and state investigators are in west Texas trying to determine what caused a fertilizer plant to explode there last week. Robert champion, the ATF special agent in charge of the Dallas field office, said it will be a slow process. The blast left a large crater in the small town. Experts will enter it within the next few days and start digging. So far, they do not suspect anyone set off the explosion on purpose. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board postponed a meeting in Washington this week to send staff to the small Texas town. (Chemical Safety Board)