Wednesday federal headlines – July 31, 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.

  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to reveal results of a sequestration report he ordered in March. The report details how the Pentagon respond to sequestration in the coming years. Hagel will describe the closely held report later today, according to Defense One. He’ll present three options for how the Defense Department can proceed. The plans go to Capitol Hill Thursday. Hagel ordered the review days after he took office. (Defense One)
  • The Pentagon says military stores cannot sell sexually explicit material, but magazines like Playboy and Penthouse are OK. Undersecretary for Readiness Frederick Vollrath made that statement in a letter to an anti-pornography group that had complained about sales of adult magazines on bases, Military Times reported. Despite the defense, the magazines could be harder to find. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is removing nearly 900 titles from its stock, Playboy and Penthouse included. Officials say it’s a business decision. Sales have plummeted, and they need more shelf space for electronics. (Military Times)
  • The FAA this week approved the use of small, unmanned airplanes for use in the domestic air space. Already, pockets of resistance are showing up. A resident of Deer Trail, Colorado has proposed an ordinance letting people shoot down drones, The Atlantic reports. Phillip Steele acknowleges his proposal is symbolic. He says he doesn’t believe in a surveillance society, but he think that’s exactly what the United States is becoming. Under Steele’s proposal, drone hunters would be limited to a 12-gauge shotgun. They’d get a bounty for every kill. (The Atlantic)
  • The Air Force awarded six companies contracts worth a total of nearly $1 billion. The mandatory contracts cover a variety of technology services under the Network-Centric Solutions 2 program, NetCents Two. Awards went to Lockheed Martin, TYBRIN, Harris, SRA International, Raytheon, and L-3. Services include systems integration, help desk and operational support and helping the Air Force use data in web applications. The Air Force picked those six out of 21 bidders. NetCents Two contracts are set up as indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity. Contractors get a three-year base period, with four one-year options. The Air Force Lifecycle Management Center in Montgomery, Alabama made the awards. (Defense Department)
  • We could learn more about any damage Army Private Bradley Manning caused when he leaked government secrets to the website WikiLeaks. His sentencing hearing begins today. For the first time in the trial, the military judge is letting lawyers for both sides present evidence about the harm those leaks caused to national security and troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, found Manning guilty of all but the most serious charge against him: aiding the enemy. He still faces up to 136 years in prison. (Federal News Radio)
  • The government spends $700 billion a year handing out grants, but you can’t tell who’s in charge. Some agencies use subject matter experts, others use grants process specialists. And there are few standards for training the people who decide on grants. Those are among the findings in a new report from the Government Accountability Office. Auditors looked into grants practices at Health and Human Services, State, Education and Transportation. It found 50 job classifications involved, and few training standards. It recommends the establishment of separate training programs for program and grants managers. (Federal News Radio)
  • Veteran Affairs got a rare compliment for its information technology. It came from an important source — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. He attended a demonstration of VA’s home telehealth project, which lets isolated veterans connect to doctors and other health care providers from home. They can receive treatment for problems from depression to diabetes. Sanders praised VA for what he called an extremely good job taking advantage of modern technology. Robert Petzel is VA’s undersecretary for health. He says VA medical centers with telehealth are at the forefront of a coming explosion in the use of telecommunications in medicine. (Veterans Affairs)
  • The FBI launched a program to let companies report cybersecurity attacks quickly and consistently. Dubbed iGuardian, the portal will operate in a test phase over the next few months. The FBI made it available to 58,000 companies already participating in the agency’s critical infrastructure protection project. Richard McFeely runs the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Service Branch. He says until now, the FBI didn’t receive company cyber attack reports in a uniform way. Now it will. The interagency group called the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force will examine incoming reports. Feely says iGuardian is modeled after a system used by local police reporting incidents to the FBI. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will spend the day gathering fodder for a possible broadside against NSA surveillance programs. Today’s hearing will bring up the seconds-in-command at Justice, the FBI, National Security Agency and the Office of National Intelligence. James Carr, a former secret surveillance court judge, will also testify. Chairman Patrick Leahy has already drafted legislation to enhance oversight. His bill would require more reporting to Congress and add further court review of surveillance programs. Lawmakers from across the political spectrum have questioned NSA’s domestic surveillance, made public by leaker Edward Snowden. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate Commerce Committee has approved a bill to put many White House cybersecurity initiatives into law. The bill has industry backing, The Hill reports. It could come before the full Senate by the end of this year. It would make the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s leading role permanent. NIST is now working with businesses to develop best practices and standards in cybersecurity. The bill would not mandate any specific security or information-sharing measures. (The Hill)
  • Federal employees’ groups are raising alarm over legislation coming before the full House this week. More than two dozen unions and associations say the bills unfairly attack the federal workforce. One bill would cap employee performance awards at five percent. Another would let citizens more easily record phone calls with federal employees. A third would enable agencies to put certain senior executives on unpaid leave. The last would make it easier for the IRS to get rid of employees who abuse their positions for personal or political gain. (NARFE)
  • President Barack Obama nominated a long-time insider to be the deputy secretary of the Interior Department. Michael Connor is currently commissioner of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. He’s also been director of the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Office, and a lawyer in several other offices. Connor worked for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee until returning to Interior in 2009. He is also a professional engineer.
  • Once again, the President wants to hear federal employees’ ideas for saving their agencies money. The White House has kicked off its annual SAVE Award. The contest pits federal employees against each other to see who can come up with the best idea to cut waste. Out of the 85,000 ideas submitted since the contest launched in 2009, the White House says it has included more than 80 in its budget proposals. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 9. (Federal News Radio)