Monday federal headlines – August 19, 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.

  • More than 14,000 current and former Energy Department employees are at risk of identity theft. Energy officials confirmed hackers broke into an unclassified network containing employees personally identifiable information. In an email obtained by Federal News Radio, Energy says affected people will all be notified by Aug. 30. It’s the second breach this year. Energy’s unclassified network was also hacked in February. In the latest incident, officials say no classified information appeared to be targeted or compromised. (Federal News Radio)
  • Love it or hate it, ObamaCare is slower to come on than envisioned in the original legislation. In fact, the administration has missed 41 out of 82 deadlines in the Affordable Care Act. Forbes magazine reports, even more deadlines were missed because Congress didn’t appropriate funds for them. Forbes obtained an unpublished Congressional Research Service report. It shows that some deadlines as far back as 2009 are still unmet. Others, like the employer mandate, were delayed by presidential fiat. (Forbes Magazine)
  • Same-sex couples are getting impatient with the IRS. They are waiting for the agency to clarify how the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act impacts their taxes. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has written to agency leaders urging them to resolve the issues quickly. He says some same-sex married couples filed extensions for their 2012 returns, hoping the Supreme Court would rule as it did. Now they need to know whether they can file jointly. Cardin says the IRS also should explain whether the state in which a couple lives matters in terms of federal tax policy. He says there’s reason to believe new policies should be applied retroactively. (Sen. Ben Cardin)
  • Cybersecurity is on the agenda for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s first Pentagon meeting with his new Chinese counterpart. Gen. Chang Wanquan arrives in Washington after visits with Northern Command in Colorado and Pacific Command in Hawaii. Amid growing concern over cybertheft from China, President Barack Obama addressed the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping in June. Obama confronted Xi with evidence of intellectual property theft. It did not result in any agreement on cybersecurity. (Associated Press)
  • A presidential task force charged with cutting red tape in disaster aid is releasing a strategy for rebuilding areas struck by Superstorm Sandy. The panel was led by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. It says federal agencies should streamline their review processes for reconstruction projects. It recommends the Small Business Administration ease restrictions on some loans and improve training for loan officers. And it says federal mortgage policies need to be changed so homeowners can get insurance checks more quickly. (Associated Press)
  • Federal employees on official business will find their travel dollars go a little further starting Oct. 1. The General Services Administration says domestic fares under its city pairs program will drop an average of 4 percent. International fares will fall 7 percent. GSA estimates the new fares will save the government $2.2 billion. Flying feds will still be able to change their plans at the last minute without penalties. The program is bigger, too. GSA says the number of city pair routes has grown by 25 percent to more than 6,000. Awards went to 10 major carriers. (GSA)
  • Come September, some Postal employees will earn $18 more a week. It’s part of an agreement between the Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union. It’s the second cost-of-living raise for union members. The first, back in March, amounted to $207 a year. Union members are also getting a 1.5 percent pay raise in mid-November. The Postal Service has tried to control labor costs as it copes with billions of dollars in annual losses. (American Postal Workers Union)
  • As a government employee, are you eligible for a free government grant? Sorry, but no. That warning comes from the Federal Trade Commission. It says scammers are calling federal employees on furlough. The callers offer help in the form of a grant. They ask for the employee’s bank account information. The Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia says it has received complaints from feds. One victim says someone with a 202 area code offered her a grant worth $9,000. (Federal Trade Commission)
  • Buying beer and wine on Navy bases could soon be as hard as buying cigarettes. Starting in October, the Navy will limit the hours that on-base stores can sell alcohol to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Alcohol displays will be smaller and relegated to the back of stores. Alcohol- detection devices will be available for purchase. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert issued the order as part of a wider efforts to curb alcohol abuse and deter sexual assault. U.S. bases will continue to sell liquor at a discount of up to 10 percent compared with off-base stores. (Associated Press)
  • The Navy awarded the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a contract for research into producing medicine right on the battlefield. The two-year contract is worth up to $22 million. It’s part of DoD’s biologically derived Medicines on Demand program. Under Bio-MOD, planners seek the capability of making different types of medicines using protein biologics. They want to be able to produce them fast and where they’re needed, depending on battlefield threats and medical needs. The project originated with DARPA. The Space and Naval Ware Systems center made the award. (Defense Department)
  • From the Chief of Naval Operations on down to the average seaman apprentice, Navy people think they all spend too much time on administrivia. The CNO, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, ordered a review. The result — a team and a web site devoted to Reducing Administrative Distractions. In a month, the RAD team says it’s collected thousands of suggestions for reducing clerical time-wasters. Team members report they’re moving to the next phase, looking for solutions to the biggest distractions. Two promising areas: less paperwork, and finding new ways to use the common access card. The RAD team is also considering a Navy Wiki. That would be a one-stop shop for all Navy instructions and forms. (U.S. Navy)
  • Forest Service scientists say they’re making progress in the battle to stop invasive insects that have destroyed millions of trees. The Emerald Ash borer, a type of beetle, has chewed up ash trees in 21 states, from Minnesota to Maine. They’ve caused billions of dollars in damage. The Wall Street Journal reports, federal scientists think they’ve found a solution. It turns out that certain woodpeckers, nuthatches and Chinese wasps like to eat the beetles. Leah Bauer is an insect researcher at the Forest Service. She says placing the predators near the beetles, and aiding them with the right chemicals, is showing success in eradicating them. (Wall Street Journal)