Friday federal headlines – August 23, 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 Merit Systems Protection Board may have been swamped with appeals over furlough days. But it’s promising to get them decided quickly. Before board members can render decisions, the appeals have to be docketed, a way or organizing them. The Board says it’s managed to docket more than half of the 30,000 furlough-related claims already. It promises to finish the docketing shortly after Labor Day. Then staff can sort them by similarity so board members can adjudicate them more efficiently. (Federal News Radio)
  • One contractor protesting a General Services Administration request for quotes has won the first round of the legal battle. The GSA’s protest official rejected the General Counsel’s motion to dismiss the protest. Aljucar, Anvil-Incus & Co. sued over the RFQ for the OASIS program, a governmentwide acquisition contract GSA is designing for professional services. The company said the requirements were skewed against small business. The protest official, Maria Swaby, is supposed to get the general counsel’s response on Monday. Another company, U.S. Falcon, went to the Government Accountability Office with its protest. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Forest Service says it is running out of money to fight wildfires. From a pool of about $970 million, the agency is down to the last $50 million. That’s just enough for a few days of fighting fires. The Forest Service is diverting $600 million from timber, recreation and other programs. Under sequestration, the agency has cut 500 firefighters and lost 50 engines. But it has struggled for years to get enough money to fight wildfires. It has had to divert funds from other programs six times in the past 11 years. (Associated Press)
  • More than a third of House Republicans would rather shut down the government than fund provisions in the Affordable Care Act. The 80 lawmakers make their views known in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner. They urge him to reject any spending bills to help implement the new health care law. If leaders agreed, members of both parties say it would lead to a standoff that would prevent agreement on fiscal 2014 funding. But the fact that a majority of House Republicans refrained from signing the letter gives their leaders more cover to compromise with Democrats on a continuing resolution or other appropriations. (Associated Press)
  • The CIA is closing its declassification office, citing sequestration. The LA Times reports, the office that responds to open- records requests will take over the work of the Historical Collections Division. It employed outside contractors to review documents of public interest that were not required by law to be declassified. That made it an easy target for the budget office. But the CIA says it remains committed to the work. Outside lawyers and academics describe the move as a big loss. (LA Times)
  • The Army prosecuted him and won. Now Pvt. Bradley Manning may take the Army to court. Convicted of violating the Espionage Act, Manning faces up to 35 years in prison. Manning now says he wants to change his gender, and wants the Army to provide him with the required hormone treatments. Army spokesman George Wright says the Army doesn’t provide that benefit, although it does offer psychiatric treatment to prisoners. Manning’s lawyer says he’ll do everything in his power to get Manning his sex-change treatments. Civilian federal prisons do provide hormone therapy. (Associated Press)
  • The Pentagon is letting same-sex servicemembers take up to 10 days of special, uncharged leave to get married so they can apply for family benefits. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) questions the policy in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Inhofe says the change would discriminate against other military couples who could not take uncharged leave. Inhofe suggests the Pentagon would need Congress’ approval to change benefits policies. (U.S. Senate)
  • Secretary Ray Mabus is directing the Navy to counter insider threats coming from employees, military or contractors. On the technology side, he is telling department officials to update the systems and policies that let them monitor network users’ activity. The chief information officer will make it easier for people to report suspicious actions too. The Army recently announced it was setting up a similar program. The Federation of American Scientists obtained the documents and posted them online. (Federation of American Scientists)
  • The Navy has about as many museums as aircraft carriers. And now the museums are going back to normal operating hours. Officials at the Naval History and Heritage Command had closed them on Mondays as a result of sequestration. The Navy’s archives and the Navy Department’s library at the Washington Navy Yard have been closed. They’ll reopen Aug. 26. Nearby naval museums are in Washington, Norfolk, Va., and Annapolis. At the Washington yard, the Navy is continuing work on modernizing two storage buildings. (U.S. Navy)
  • The General Service Administration has raised a $.5 million in three years in fees to movie and TV show producers. They use the buildings and other historic landmarks as locations for filming. Some buildings have ended up in successful shows. Netflix’s House of Cards used the Baltimore customs house. But the practice isn’t new. The 1986 classic movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, used the Chicago Federal Center. In a blog post, GSA says more than 50 movies have featured federal buildings. (GSA)
  • Microsoft’s own Windows Defender got nearly the lowest score of 28 products in a malware torture test. A German company has finished comprehensive evaluations of security software suites for Windows computers. AV- Test subjected the programs to a six month battery of tests to see if they could detect and stop various types of viruses. Bitdefender, F-Secure and Kaspersky Lab all got 100 percent scores in the three categories of tests thrown at them. Microsoft Defender is supplied free as part of Windows. It only stopped 79 percent of the threats. (AV-TEST)