Monday federal headlines – July 29, 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.

  • After a long silence, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has weighed in on the IRS scandal. The IRS is trying to bounce back from it’s tarnished reputation, but it might be easier said than done. Lew recently spoke on the IRS’s improper targeting of conservative groups. An article in The Hill reports that Lew said that mistakes were made, but there is no evidence that the White House or political officials were the front men in the scandal. He also acknowledged that the IRS has a long way to go in gaining the public’s trust back. (The Hill)
  • The National Treasury Employees Union is taking exception to a bill that would let citizens record conversations with federal officials. The bill has already passed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. At its web site, NTEU provides cut-and-paste language for members to send to their representatives. The union says the law is unfair because it doesn’t include conversations between citizens and members of Congress or their staffs. NTEU is also opposing a measure from Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) to put federal employees into health insurance programs under the Affordable Care Act. (National Treasury Employees Union)
  • MARC train commuters could be in for a difficult morning. The Maryland Transit Administration says a freight train derailment Sunday near Camden station will cause delays this morning on the Camden and Brunswick lines. Both take distant Maryland commuters into Union Station in Washington. Both lines will operate on a full weekday schedule but with delays of up to 20 minutes. Camden line commuters can use their tickets on the Penn Line if they can get to Penn Station in Baltimore using a light rail shuttle. (WTOP)
  • The latest political skirmish over federal programs draws in the National Park Service. Republican Senators have suggested tapping into the conservation fund to help the Park Service reduce its $11.5 billion maintenance backlog. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says, given all of the priorities, it’s a better use of the funds than buying more land. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) says that’s short-sighted, according to Federal Times. He says purchasing land around sensitive areas already owned by the government can help protect them. That, he says, would lead to lower maintenance costs down the road. (Federal Times)
  • Apple has restored access to the main portions of its developer website. They were hit with a hack attack a little more than a week ago, but the sites became operating again late on Friday, ComputerWorld reports. It was an incident with lessons for any organization running a cloud-based developer site. Apple says an intruder tried to get personal information on registered developers. The site houses programming tools for iOS, Mac and Safari. It also contains pre-release versions of new Apple software, including a major operating system upgrade. Apple didn’t know the attackers, or how they got into the site. (ComputerWorld)
  • A federal judge has ruled against a group of veterans seeking health care outside of the VA medical system. District Judge Claudia Wilken says veterans harmed by government experiments failed to prove the VA is incapable of helping them. The lawsuit dates to 2009. It was filed by veterans who were guinea pigs in tests of chemical agents, germs and new drugs. The experiments ended in 1976. The ruling points out many VA outreach programs, including a 2006 letter offering disability benefits to those harmed by the experiments. The government also released the veterans from any secrecy oaths they’d taken in connection with the experiments. (Las Vegas Sun)
  • The Navy is trying something novel. It will attempt to un-bomb an area it bombed by accident. Earlier this month, two Navy AV-8B Harrier jets jettisoned four bombs into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off the northeast coast of Australia. The bombs did not explode and missed the barrier reef itself. The Seventh Fleet will lead the effort for what it calls the ordnance retrieval mission. Navy officials say they’re committed to reversing any adverse environmental impacts the bombs have caused. The flights were part of joint training exercises with the Australian military called Talisman Saber 2013. The training takes place every two years. Navy officials say that until they are recovered, there is virtually no chance of the bombs detonating. (Defense Department)