Thursday federal headlines – July 11, 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.

  • Customs and Border Protection said it will put more resources into border crossings and customs terminals if the local communities pay for it. The agency is experimenting with a pay-for-service system. The Miami airport, the Texas-Mexico border region and a Vermont ski region are among the more than a dozen places vying to participate in the pilot program. Their local money, including private donations, would pay for additional staff, overtime and services like inspections to trim wait times. Customs will choose five ports of entry this summer. (Federal News Radio)
  • A bipartisan group of senators want to overhaul the federal security-clearance process in the wake of the NSA scandal. Two Democrats and two Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee have introduced legislation to step up oversight of the process. It would require the government to update its policy determining which positions require a security clearance. It calls for the government to fire background-check investigators and suspend others who falsify reports. The company that does most of the government’s background checks is under investigation for fraud. (Senate)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has put it in writing. DoD may consider layoffs next year if sequestration continues. The automatic budget cuts would slash DoD’s budget by $52 billion in their second year. In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hagel says the layoffs themselves wouldn’t save much money. But they would be forced by reductions in spending on operations and maintenance. Training and modernization would both suffer, Hagel said. The letter comes as hundreds of thousands of civilians in DoD this week are taking the first of 11 unpaid days off until Sept. 30. (Federal News Radio)
  • It’s not exactly a love-in, but they’re not throwing rotten eggs at each other. Cybersecurity talks between United States and Chinese officials are going well, according to Chinese state media. Reuters, commenting on the state media reports, says the Edward Snowden affair does not seem to be overshadowing the talks, now taking place in Washington. They’re part of a larger set of annual negotiations. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry are leading the U.S. delegation. The Chinese say the two have made progress, but there’s still plenty of mutual suspicion to go around. The Chinese delegates say 249 Chinese government and academic websites were hacked from January to May, including 54 by U.S. IP addresses. (Reuters)
  • When President Barack Obama rolled out his new management agenda this week, he singled out the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a model of innovation. FEMA has deployed mobile devices and applications at disasters such as the recent Oklahoma tornados. FEMA Deputy Administrator Rick Serino wants the emergency management community to know it. In a blog post, Serino says the theme of FEMA’s next monthly Think Tank will be innovation every emergency manager should know about. Think Tanks consist of monthly conference calls with state and local responders, plus online forums where citizens can weigh in. The next Think Tank takes place Thursday, July 18. (DHS/FEMA)
  • Senators once again are digging into the government’s response to the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. This afternoon, they’ll have a chance to grill State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland about communication between her agency and the White House in the first hours following the event. Nuland is President Barack Obama’s pick for chief diplomat to Europe. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on her nomination today. Nuland had a hand in crafting talking points suggesting the September attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti- Muslim film and not a well-planned act of terrorism. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate Homeland Security Committee is looking into payroll problems at the Defense Department. Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) is promising a hearing later this year. His decision follows an investigation by Reuters. The news outlet found the Defense Department’s old record-keeping system is preventing it from tracking the money. Service members report pay withheld for no reason. Lawmakers suggest service members check their payroll stubs carefully because they could be wrong. (Reuters)
  • The Pentagon is considering eliminating danger pay for service members in as many as 18 countries and five waterways around the world. That would save about $120 million each year while taking a bite out of troops’ salaries. Senior defense and military leaders are expected to meet later this week to review the plan. Sources tell the Associated Press, they are likely to approve it. It would cut some 56,000 troops’ pay by up to $225 a month. The cut would affect those in Kuwait, a hub in the Iraq war. Troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula would still get danger pay. (Federal News Radio)