Monday federal headlines – July 1, 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.

  • Same-sex couples waited decades for legal recognition from the Supreme Court. Now married gay couples have 60 days to apply for updated federal benefits. The Office of Personnel Management has set an August 26 deadline. Spouses of federal employees in legal same-sex marriages have become eligible for health, group life insurance and long term care programs. Benefits also extend to children and stepchildren of same-sex families. Those missing the deadline can also apply during the annual open season in November. (Federal News Radio)
  • Tables are turning on the Homeland Security Department’s top auditor. A Senate panel is investigating acting Inspector General Charles Edwards for wrongdoing. Lawmakers are looking into claims that Edwards softened his investigation last year of the Secret Service prostitution scandal under political pressure, according to Gov Exec. Senators Claire McCaskill and Ron Johnson say ‘numerous whistleblowers’ have alerted them to Edwards’ behavior. Among the charges, Edwards helped his wife get a job in his office and he retaliated against an employee who raised questions about it. (Gov Exec)
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is crunching the numbers to find out whether furloughing staff has really saved money. Over the next two weeks, its chief financial officer will calculate the savings from the five furlough days. The agency isn’t scheduling any more unpaid days off this month, but it hasn’t made a decision beyond that. The American Federation of Government Employees represents agency staff. It has launched a campaign urging the EEOC to avoid a second round of furloughs. The union says the agency has a backlog of more than 70,000 cases that will be further delayed if more furloughs go into effect. (AFGE)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the department to review its discretionary allotment system, which lets service members pay for certain items directly from their paychecks. The news comes as 50,000 service members are learning that they’ve fallen victim to deceptive marketing tactics by a major auto lender. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is ordering U.S. Bancorp’s U.S. Bank and its partner, Dealers’ Financial Services, to pay $6.5 million. The bureau says the firms sold sub-prime auto loans without disclosing the true annual percentage rate, the costs of finance charges, and other key details. The refunds amount to an average of $100 per service member. (DoD and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
  • Leaders across the pond reacted harshly to reports that offices of several European Union ally nations have also been subject to surveillance using secret listening devices. The disclosures came from leaker Edward Snowden to the German newspaper, Der Spiegel. U.S. intelligence officials say they’ll discuss the allegations with EU officials directly. The EU’s Justice Minister, Viviane Reding, says the spying could derail comprehensive trade talks with the United States. (Associated Press)
  • Bethesda-based company Digital Management will run the Defense Department’s new app store and manage its mobile devices. The contract is for an initial term of one year and is worth nearly $3 million. The Defense Information Systems Agency says the contract sets the stage for the digital ecosystem that lets employees and military mobile devices connect with department networks and share information. Security includes continuous monitoring and the ability to manage and configure mobile devices remotely. DISA says it could extend the contract for two more years and a total of $16 million. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Department is spending nearly $800 million on an aircraft for the Afghan military, but the Afghanis are unable to fly or maintain them. That’s according to the latest report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The SIGAR says the Afghanis have too few trained pilots and technicians to maintain the aircraft, and the Defense Department doesn’t have clear milestones for developing the Afghan personnel required to run their Special Mission Wing. The IG recommends suspending the contracts altogether until DoD can provide assurance that Afghanistan will have the people it needs to handle the aircraft. Eighteen are fixed wing and 30 are Russian-made helicopters. (SIGAR)
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology has launched a grant competition to create an Advanced Materials Center of Excellence. It will focus not only on discovering and making new materials, but also how to get them to market faster. The winner will receive funding of $5 million per year for five years. The competition is open to colleges, universities and non-profits. NIST says it wants to bring together several disciplines including measurement and computer simulation, and modeling. (NIST)
  • The flag will still be there, but the bombs won’t be bursting in the air. Military bases across the country will celebrate the 4th of July without fireworks displays. The reason? Budget cuts. Independence Day boomers have been canceled at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base and at the Army’s Fort Bragg, both in North Carolina. The annual July Fourth celebration also has been scrapped at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia. At Camp Lejuene, last year’s Independence Day cost about $100,000, including $25,000 for the fireworks. The biggest expense is paying the overtime to personnel for security, transportation, logistics and safety. Base officials said they couldn’t justify paying overtime when federal workers are losing pay while furloughed. (Associated Press)
  • The Park Service is going all out to mark the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest battle in Civil War history. The agency is presiding over nearly 200 events in Gettysburg. Over the weekend, history buffs helped recreate Pickett’s Charge. The Park Service says between that event and another later this week more than 500 re-enactors will participate. It’s also an opportunity for the Park Service to showcase its 13-year effort to rehabilitate Gettysburg, including the removal of some non-historic trees. (Associated Press)
  • Facebook has patched a serious security flaw affecting mobile users. InformationWeek reports a British security researcher received a $20,000 prize for discovering the bug under Facebook’s bug bounty program. Jack Whitton discovered a way that someone receiving a Facebook update via text message could access the account using the sender’s phone number or any phone number, for that matter. Once in, the hacker could reset the password and have complete control of the account. Victims wouldn’t know what was going on until they could no longer log into their own account. (InformationWeek)