Friday federal headlines – July 12, 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 staff at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: there won’t be any additional furloughs. The American Federation of Government Employees represents many agency workers. It says the EEOC sent staff an email yesterday saying the five days of furloughs now scheduled would be enough. The EEOC had considered adding three more unpaid days off to cope with budget cuts under sequestration. Despite the victory, the union cautions the worst could be yet to come. House lawmakers are drafting a fiscal 2014 budget for the EEOC that would be $15 million less than this year’s base funding level. (AFGE)
  • One committee down, the rest of the Senate to go. By a party-line vote of 10 to 8, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Todd Jones as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Now the White House is turning up the heat on the full chamber to swiftly confirm Jones. ATF has not had a confirmed director in seven years. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney blamed Senate Republicans for blocking every nominee regardless of their qualifications. Jones is both acting as the head of the bureau and serving as the U.S. attorney in Minnesota. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal hackers can leave their black T-shirts folded and their red hair gel in the medicine cabinet. They’re not welcome at this year’s annual DefCon hacking convention. In the aftermath of the Edward Snowden surveillance revelations, the conference founder has politely asked federal attendees to take a year off. Jeff Moss says the other hackers need time to process what they now know about the National Security Agency. DefCon attracts more than 15,000 code jockeys to Las Vegas each year. This year’s conference starts Aug. 2. (Reuters)
  • Furloughs in the Defense Finance and Accounting Service won’t delay federal paychecks, but contractors might have to wait a bit longer. NextGov reports, most of the 12,000 DFAS employees started their furloughs this week. Like employees throughout the Defense Department, they face 11 unpaid days off between now and Sep. 30. A communications official, Thomas LaRock, says travel cost reimbursement could also slow down. Besides Defense, DFAS processes payroll and other financial transactions for several civilian agencies, including the White House. (GovExec)
  • The confessed mastermind of the 9-11 attacks has had a chance to use the skills he went to college for. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He asked for and got permission from the CIA to design a vacuum cleaner. Mohammed has been confined to a basement prison in Romania for a decade. A former CIA official tells the Associated Press, the CIA wanted Mohammed to retain his sanity after years of waterboarding and solitary confinement. In case he or his colleagues should ever stand trial or testify in court, the officials says, the CIA didn’t want them to go nuts. No word on plans to build a better vacuum cleaner. (Federal News Radio)
  • Four agencies would have to continue seeking the FBI’s approval to buy certain technology systems under a House budget bill. Lawmakers drafting the fiscal 2014 Commerce, Justice and Science budget have included the provision. It requires the FBI to determine whether buying tech products with components made in China would pose cyber risks. The restriction covers the departments of Commerce and Justice, NASA a nd the National Science Foundation. The trade group Tech America says the restriction does more harm than good by delaying acquisitions for the departments. (Tech America)
  • Last year’s deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, continues to dog the Obama administration. Yesterday it was State Department executive Victoria Nuland’s turn. She’s the president’s nominee for chief envoy to Europe. Nuland was questioned by senators for her role in shaping the now-famous talking points that followed the attack. Nuland would not blame her former boss, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Nuland said her role was not to shape policy, but rather to make sure the administration’s message was consistent. Senators of both parties agreed Nuland is qualified for the new job. (Federal News Radio)
  • Three individuals and 10 teams are winners of the 2012 Navy Acquisition Excellence Awards. The Navy says they were selected from a field of more than 75 nominations. Capt. Paul Ghyzel was named acquisition professional of the year. He was program manager for the Communications Satellite Program Office, which delivered a 10-fold increase in capability. The top “team” award went to the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft Program Office. It found ways to save hundreds of millions of lifecycle dollars on the P8A Poseidon patrol plane. (Navy)
  • In the wake of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, a top Homeland Security official suggests the department has relied too much on the industry to police itself. David Wulf directs DHS’ infrastructure security compliance division. He says companies that handle dangerous chemicals are supposed to show DHS their site security plans. But the department doesn’t go looking for companies that fail to do it. Global Security Newswire reports, Wulf told attendees at an industry conference in Baltimore, DHS has doubled down on its outreach efforts since the explosion. (NTI)
  • Smithsonian cafeteria workers protested on the National Mall yesterday, demanding higher wages. The workers say they are paid the minimum wage in the District of $8.25 per hour. They want at least $12. They also sent a letter to Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough calling for better pay and benefits. They suggest the Institution has a responsibility even though it does not employ them directly. The protesters work for McDonald’s and Restaurant Associates. Both companies operate restaurants in federal office buildings as well as museums. (Federal News Radio)