Monday federal headlines – June 24, 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.

  • Good news for federal eyes and teeth. Employees and retirees will have more dental- and vision-insurance options available to them next year. It will be the first expansion since 2006. The Office of Personnel Management says, starting in 2014 the program will offer 10 carriers for dental coverage, up from seven. Four carriers will offer vision coverage, up from three now. OPM will announce rates and benefits later this year, just before Open Season. (Federal News Radio)
  • Edward Snowden has gone from leaker of secrets to international fugitive. He appears to be headed to an ultimate destination of Ecuador, which says it is analyzing his request for political asylum. Authorities believe Snowden fled from Hong Kong to Moscow over the weekend, but didn’t leave the airport. They expected him to fly to Cuba en route to South America. A spokesman for the WikiLeaks website said that group was helping Snowden. The United States had asked Hong Kong to hand over Snowden. But Hong Kong officials balked, citing a technicality in paperwork. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Federal Acquisition Regulation Council has removed limits on the size of contracts agencies can award to disadvantaged women-owned businesses. The interim rule was published Friday in the Federal Register. It carries out a provision in the 2013 Defense Authorization Act. Contracts had been limited to $6.5 million for products and $4 million for services. But agencies have routinely missed the statutory goal of awarding 5 percent of contracts to women-owned small businesses. The Small Business Administration proposed the rule in May. It says removal of contract size limits should help. The rule is open to comments until Aug. 20. But because it is interim, it goes into effect immediately. (Federal News Radio)
  • The General Services Administration is finally free of a massive property in Georgetown. GSA closed Friday on the $19 million sale of the the West Heating Plant, The Washington Business Journal reports. The property was auctioned off online in February with an opening bid of $500,000. The sale is part of GSA’s effort to shed excess properties. The agency estimates it has sold 44 properties across the country so far this year for $40 million and has 100 more in the disposal pipeline. (The Washington Business Journal)
  • John Berry, lately the director of the Office of Personnel Management, could be heading halfway around the world. President Barack Obama has nominated Berry to be ambassador to Australia. Berry has come a long way since his early career as legislative director to Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). He was deputy assistant secretary for law enforcement at Treasury, then senior policy advisor at the Smithsonian. Berry then became assistant secretary for policy, management and budget at Interior and later, director of the National Zoo. At OPM, Berry managed to reduce the average time it takes the federal government to make a hire. But he struggled to clear OPM’s backlog of retirement claims. (White House)
  • A Medicare contractor is in the cross hairs of the Health and Human Services Department Inspector General. A recent report found Quality Software Services, an IT contractor that tests Medicare claims standards systems, has insufficient controls over USB ports and devices. According to the IG report, the personally identifiable information of more than 6 million Medicare beneficiaries was at greater risk of theft. The testing systems did not experience any breaches or viral activity and QSSI said it has already made several of the IG’s recommended changes. (HHS)
  • A bug on Facebook inadvertently shares the email addresses or phone numbers of 6 million Facebook users. On Friday, Facebook posted a message detailing how the bug may have allowed some of a person’s contact information to be accessed. Facebook downplayed the incident saying the contact information was not exposed to developers or advertisers and no other types of personal or financial information were included. (Facebook)