Thursday federal headlines – August 22, 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 EPA has become the latest agency to scale back furlough days. Administrator Gina McCarthy has canceled one scheduled for Friday, Aug. 30. She tells staff the agency has been able to save enough money through other means. Employees already have taken 47 hours, or about six days, of unpaid leave this summer. The EPA joins the ranks of the departments of Defense, Housing and Urban Development and other large agencies that recently have cancelled furlough days. (Federal News Radio)
  • The departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development have awarded another round of grants to help homeless veterans. The nearly $8 million in funding will help local public housing agencies offer housing and clinical services. The departments estimate the money will assist more than 1,100 veterans. The departments in May distributed a bigger pot of money, $60 million. HUD and VA have worked for five years on ending homelessness among veterans. They are trying to solve the problem completely by 2015. (Housing and Urban Development)
  • The National Security Agency has released records showing it collected and stored thousands of Americans’ emails before a secret court ordered it to stop. The documents show the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled the NSA’s actions overly broad and unconstitutional. NSA then created new technology to filter out and limit access to the data most likely to contain communication between U.S. citizens. The agency declassified the documents following a court ruling. President Barack Obama also had directed the agency to release the papers. (Associated Press)
  • Army Pvt. Bradley Manning hopes to serve out his 35-year prison sentence as a woman. He was hoping the Defense Department would pay for his gender-changing hormone therapy, but the Army says it does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery, Reuters reports. Manning is headed to Leavenworth after a military judge sentenced him for giving classified documents to the web site WikiLeaks. Manning’s defense attorney says he’ll seek a presidential pardon. (Associated Press)
  • The National Archives and Records Administration has released the last of the Nixon White House recordings. Another 340 hours of audio and 140,000 pages of text are now available at Nixon’s presidential library in Yorba Linda, California. Many segments are garbled and hard to hear. Other clearly reveal Nixon and his closest advisors discussing the aftermath of the famed Watergate break-in. Political operatives attempted to bug the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee during the run up to the 1972 campaign. The Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign in 1974. (Nixon Library)
  • Federal authorities have charged 75 people in what they say is a historic case of Social Security fraud. Prosecutors say the Puerto Rico based ring was on track to steal more than $35 million. Among the people charged is a former Social Security worker, who they say directed Social Security beneficiaries to doctors who would file false claims. Justice Department officials say the island has some of the highest rates of fraud involving federal disability benefits. In response to the arrests, some House Republicans say the Social Security Administration needs to improve its disability determination process. (Associated Press)
  • The Small Business Administration has named Jeanne Hulit as its acting head. She is the SBA’s associate administrator in its office of Capital Access. She’ll take over from Karen Mills until the White House can find a permanent successor. Mills plans to leave later this month. Hulit’s office oversees the SBA’s loan programs. She’s also been regional administrator for New England. In announcing the appointment, Mills credited Hulit with simplifying and expanding SBA’s lending programs. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Food and Drug Administration has issued security recommendations for wireless medical devices. While some of the tips are highly technical, here are a few nuggets: Makers should address safety issues from the beginning when they are designing the devices. They need to consider data security, the weaknesses in wireless networks and what could happen if data is corrupted during transmission. Cyber experts have warned about the increasing vulnerability of medical devices. The Homeland Security Department in June said at least 300 medical devices relied on hard-coded passwords that could be exploited to change critical settings. (FDA)
  • The fight over a big CIA cloud computing contract has turned ugly. Amazon Web Services has asked the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for a permanent injunction to stop the CIA from recompeting the deal. Federal Times reports, Amazon originally won the $600 million deal. IBM protested to the Government Accountability Office. In June, GAO sustained the protest and recommended the CIA start over. Amazon called that decision irrational and unlawful. IBM says, unlike Amazon, it has a long history of delivering successful, transformational projects. The CIA has already asked for new bids. (Federal Times)
  • The Army is claiming victory on a technology campaign. It’s finished moving email to the cloud. In this case, the cloud operated by the Defense Information Systems Agency. Army Chief Information Officer Margaret McBride says in a blog post, more than 1.4 million email accounts on the Non- classified IP Router Network, or nipper-net, have moved. 115,000 accounts on the Secret IP network, or sipper-net, have also migrated. McBride says, now Army personnel can securely access their email from anywhere, on any device. She estimates the Army will save $76 million this year and $380 million through 2017. (U.S. Army)
  • The Defense Department has hired an IBM executive to join the Chief Information Officer’s office. Daniel Prieto will become director of cybersecurity and technology. He’ll report to CIO Teri Takai, according to a Defense Department announcement. Prieto has been a vice president in IBM’s public sector business. NextGov reports, Prieto’s main job will be encouraging more contractors to notify the Pentagon when they’re hit with a network breach that could compromise government data. Fourteen companies participate in the voluntary program, fewer than it started with. (NextGov)
  • A small Colorado town known for the world’s oldest radio might soon be better known for drone hunting. Deer Trail residents in October will vote on whether to issue permits to hunt drones. The initiative’s sponsor proposes a bounty of $25 for shooting any old drone and $100 for bringing down a federal one. The Federal Aviation Administration warns: “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane.” Residents are sharply divided. (Associated Press)