Friday federal headlines – August 9, 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.

  • Good news and bad news for IRS employees. The agency is postponing a furlough day set for Aug. 30. IRS offices will be open that day. Acting Head Danny Werfel says the IRS has made substantial progress in cutting costs so it can bring people back to work. The bad news for some employees: they won’t get the four-day Labor Day weekend they had anticipated. Werfel says liberal leave will be available. He plans to re-evaluate the agency’s budget next month and add a furlough day then if necessary. Employees have taken three furlough days. A fourth was cancelled. (Federal News Radio)
  • Federal jobs are disappearing even as hiring remains flat across the rest of the economy. That’s according to a new Gallup poll of U.S. workers. Federal employees reported a steep drop in their agencies between June and July. They also were more likely to say their employer was letting people go rather than bringing new hires in. Layoffs are up 6 percent since January. Gallup attributes the changes to the pace of furloughs and federal departures in July. (Gallup)
  • Federal researchers have developed a vaccine that provides complete protection against malaria in clinical trials. Scientists with the National Institutes of Health, the Navy and other partners have published the early-stage results in the journal Science. Navy officials say they have been working on this vaccine since the early 1970s. They say it could enhance troop readiness. Malaria has killed more troops than enemy fire in tropical regions. During the trial at NIH, volunteers were vaccinated; then three weeks later, they were exposed to mosquito bites carrying malaria. Researchers caution this is just a first step but a promising one. (National Institutes of Health)
  • About 170,000 veterans and their families won’t have as many TRICARE Prime options come Oct. 1. The Defense Department says its cutting the number of TRICARE Prime service areas, but it did not detail just how many. TRICARE recipients who live within 40 miles from a military hospital or clinic received a letter about the changes. Defense officials say recipients are not losing their benefits. They say the service area cuts do not affect active duty members, their families and most of the 5 million people enrolled in TRICARE Prime. The department says it’s planned for the cutbacks since 2007. (Defense Department)
  • NSA Director General Keith Alexander says the agency is looking to cut the number of people with access to secret information by 90 percent. He says automating NSA monitoring systems, instead of using system administrators, could actually improve security. His speech was part of a cybersecurity conference in New York City yesterday. CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director Robert Mueller also spoke. All three officials say they are worried the recent NSA scandal could interfere with Congress’ efforts to draft new cyber policies. (Associated Press)
  • Federal employees were some of the victims of an identity theft scam in the Washington D.C. metro area. Court papers say 10 people were charged for stealing the social security numbers and other personal data of more than 600 people. They used the information to create fake IDs and bank accounts. The scam started in January 2012 and ran until just last month. Court papers say some of the victims are employees at the Defense and State departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development. (Federal Times)
  • New Blackberry 10 models are winning approval from the Defense Department. The Wall Street Journal reports the Defense Information System Agency is giving Blackberry an authority-to-operate confirmation on the Z-10 and Q-10 smartphones. It’s the first mobile device management service to win an Authority to Operate. Blackberry says the Defense Department hasn’t placed any orders for the new phones yet. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Texas-based email service Lavabit is shutting down. A statement from owner Ladar Levison says in his words, Lavabit would rather go out of business than become complicit in crimes against the American people. And it gets even more cryptic. Lavabit says it can’t give the real reason that led to its decision. There are signs Lavabit’s shutdown could have something to do with NSA leaker Edward Snowden. An online MIT database shows someone with the name *Ed Snowden* registered three email addresses with Lavabit over the past four years. And a Russian human rights activist says Snowden contacted her with a Lavabit email address hours before they met at a Moscow airport. (Associated Press)
  • Only essential U.S. government staff remain in Lahore — Pakistan’s second-largest city. The State Department has evacuated nonessential staff to the capital, Islamabad. The decision came after the consulate in Lahore received a terrorist threat. U.S. officials say it is not related to the threat of an al-Qaida attack that prompted the government to close 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and Africa this week. The government also is warning Americans not to travel to Pakistan right now. (Associated Press)