Friday federal headlines – July 26, 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.

  • The political divide in Congress is boosting the possibility of a government shutdown come Sept. 30. It would be the first shutdown since 1995. Two big issues appear impossible to bridge. Republicans are resisting any budget that includes money to implement the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democrats oppose a $20 billion spending cut proposed by House Republicans. In all, the House and Senate are $90 billion apart in their views of what the 2014 budget should be. Lawmakers don’t have much time, as they take a recess in August. Their September calendar is shortened by the Jewish holidays. (Federal News Radio)
  • Sequestration and furloughs are slowing down a comprehensive review of agency regulations. That’s according to Howard Shelanski, the newly-confirmed head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He tells a House panel his office is operating at a bare-bones level and not filling vacancies. OIRA is part of the Office of Management and Budget, which will be on furlough for the next two Mondays. Shelanski heard a salvo of complaints about the Obama administration’s regulatory approach from Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), GovExec reports. (GovExec)
  • Federal employees might not get a pay raise under a spending bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. But they would get a bit of a boost. Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski says she wants to “level the playing field” for feds. Contractors might not like that. Mikulski says whatever work can be done by agency employees should be brought in house. The bill would require agencies to do a cost comparison before contracting out work. It also would block arbitrary freezes or cuts to the federal workforce. (U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations)
  • Like The Blob, the number of federal data centers just keeps on growing. In 2011, the Obama administration said the government had about 3,000 data centers. Now that number is 7,000, Federal Times reports. It was revealed by members of the House subcommittee on Government Operations at a hearing and confirmed by the Government Accountability Office. Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel says the government managed to close 484 data centers since 2010 under the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative. Subcommittee Chairman John Mica says that if the topline number keeps growing, the administration will never reach its goal. VanRoekel also testified to more than $1 billion in IT savings since OMB launched its PortfolioStat review process in 2012. (Federal Times)
  • The Obama administration has decided not to classify recent political events in Egypt as a coup d’etat, which means military aid can continue flowing to the troubled country.. The administration had suspended the delivery of new F16 fighters, but now the shipments will resume. It informed lawmakers of the decision in closed meetings. Earlier this month, the Egyptian army removed the country’s president, Mohammed Morsi, put him in jail and suspended the constitution. The Army has said it will hold future elections and step aside. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama’s choice to be the Homeland Security Department deputy secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, is under investigation by the Homeland Security inspector general. Mayorkas is the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He’s suspected of helping Hillary Rodham Clinton’s brother, Anthony Rodham, obtain a special visa for an investor in his company. Mayorkas denied the allegations during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. (Federal News Radio)
  • Justice Department officials call it the largest ever data breach scheme prosecuted in the United States. Five men from Russia and the Ukraine have been indicted for hacking into computers at numerous large organizations, including NASDAQ, 7-Eleven and JetBlue. The breaches began with SQL injection attacks on victims’ databases. That led them to an estimated 160 million credit card accounts. Officials believe losses amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman of the New Jersey district called the alleged crime cutting-edge. The Secret Service led the investigation leading to the indictments. (Justice Department)
  • The Senate Commerce Committee plans to mark up a bill that would codify many of the federal cybersecurity initiatives now underway. Chairman Jay Rockefeller and Ranking Republican John Thune have co-sponsored the measure. They say it would ensure the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s continued engagement with the issue, and it would cement the partnership between NIST and businesses on cybersecurity standards. The bill has other measures to promote cybersecurity research and careers. (U.S. Senate Commerce Committee)
  • Amazon Web Services has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Judge Thomas Wheeler granted the company’s request to keep details of the suit secret under a protective order. The suit comes a month after the Government Accountability Office sustained a protest over a contract that the CIA had awarded Amazon, according to Federal Times. IBM claimed the CIA had judged pricing offers unfairly. The GAO recommended the CIA reopen bidding for the five-year, $600 million cloud computing deal. (Federal Times)
  • The Air Force is offering early retirement to some officers and enlisted members with 15 to 20 years of service. It’s part of the service’s plan to trim back on certain specialties and meet end-strength goals for next year. Airmen must apply before mid-August and leave the payroll by November. It can get tricky for service members who have taken advantage of some educational benefits. Under certain circumstances, they might have to repay the funds before leaving. (U.S. Air Force)