Friday federal headlines – July 19, 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.

  • A high level cyber official is leaving the Homeland Security Department. Bruce McConnell, who’s been there four years in several positions, tells staff he’ll return to the private sector in August. McConnell served as the senior counselor and director of strategy and policy for DHS’s National Programs and Protections Directorate. At the moment he is acting deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity, replacing Mark Weatherford, who left in April. Published reports say Phyllis Schneck, a McAfee executive, will be named to replace Weatherford. McConnell will be the fourth senior executive at DHS to resign since January. Secretary Janet Napolitano leaves in September to become president of the University of California. (Federal News Radio)
  • A bipartisan group of 81 members of Congress introduced nine good-government bills. They would fix everything from bulk purchasing to legislative inertia. The Duplication Elimination Act would require the president and Congress to cooperate in consolidating duplicate federal programs. The No Adding, No Padding Act would make it harder for agencies to raise budgets beyond the inflation rate. Other bills push strategic sourcing, cut federal travel and penalize Congress for not finishing its budgeting work. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate plugged two more vacancies in President Obama’s second-term cabinet. The votes came after an agreement earlier in the week to avert a filibuster showdown. Thomas Perez, a top Justice Department official, will become Secretary of Labor. He was confirmed in a 54 to 46 party-line vote. Gina McCarthy was confirmed as administrator of the EPA. She had some Republican yes votes. (Associated Press)
  • House Republican leaders are ending their court battle over a gay marriage law similar to the Defense of Marriage Act. By doing so, the GOP removes a key hurdle in gay veterans’ fight for benefits for their spouses. The House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group has represented the Republicans in these cases. According to BuzzFeed, the group is withdrawing from a Massachusetts case brought by gay veterans, in which they challenged benefits statutes that banned recognition of gay marriage. The GOP had defended the law. (BuzzFeed)
  • The National Security Agency is implementing new security measures it hopes will prevent more Edward-Snowden-style leaks. A two-man rule will require any network administrator accessing secret information to do so only in the presence of a second admin. But NSA Chief Keith Alexander tells an employee forum, getting the change rolled out will take time. That’s because NSA has 15,000 sites to update. Server rooms, which are normally locked, will require two people to open them. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says the changes will also apply to Pentagon systems. (Associated Press)
  • The hacker collective Anonymous says it has gotten the passwords to some Capitol Hill emails and made a mess of them. Anonymous tweeted that it did it to protest the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. A Senate systems administrator told the Atlantic Wire it’s not so bad. Hackers disclosed more than 300 Senate email addresses and passwords. But some of those accounts expired long ago. A company used by lawmakers to send mass constituent letters admits that it was hacked. (The Atlantic Wire)
  • The Navy and Air Force are getting tougher on service members who commit sexual assault. The Navy is spending $10 million to hire 50 more criminal investigators. Secretary Ray Mabus is ordering both the Navy and Marine Corps to post online the results of every court martial. The Air Force says it now discharges Airmen who commit sexual assault. It also requires top commanders to review actions on those criminal cases. Meanwhile, Arlington prosecutors have dropped a sexual battery charge against the Air Force officer who led the service’s sexual assault response unit. Instead, they’ve charged Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski with assault. (Associated Press)
  • A new bill would extend federal hiring preferences to National Guard and reserve members. The Military Reserve Jobs Act would give them front-of-line privileges similar to those now extended to other veterans. The bill has bipartisan sponsors in the House and Senate. Former reserve component members would receive three, four, or five points of preference on their applications, depending on length of service. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly says 70 percent of reservists don’t qualify now for veterans preference because they haven’t seen combat. (Sen. Joe Donnelly (D- Ind.))
  • A labor union representing 50,000 Defense Department employees continues its push to repeal furloughs. The National Federation of Federal Employees is urging Congress to pass an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act. The measure would not save all defense civilians from having to take unpaid days off. Instead, it focuses on the 180,000 who are paid out of a working capital fund rather than operations. The union says, make no mistake; it opposes all furloughs. (National Federation of Federal Employees)
  • The deputy Peace Corps director is getting a promotion. President Obama says he’ll nominate Carolyn Hessler Radelet to the top job. She joined the Peace Corps in 2010. She’s had a variety of federal, non-profit and private sector jobs since her last Peace Corps stint. She was public affairs manager at the Corps Boston regional office in the mid 1980s. Hessler Radelet was a volunteer in Western Samoa for two years before that. (Associated Press)
  • Employees at the Securities and Exchange Commission aren’t too happy these days, and that could be hurting the agency. The warning comes from the Government Accountability Office. It says employees complain about low morale, and they don’t trust management. They say the organization is hierarchical, risk-averse and compartmentalized. The auditors say the SEC is dilly dallying on some workforce basics, such as career development and performance management systems. GAO says it launched the investigation following some high-profile enforcement failures at the SEC. (Government Accountability Office)