Tuesday federal headlines – August 13, 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 FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The Merit Systems Protection Board has put furlough protests filed by Defense Department employees on hold. Two Virginia lawmakers are challenging that decision. Since the start of federal employee furloughs, the Board had received more than 30,000 appeal cases. According to GovExec, 96 percent of them have come from DoD. The Board says it’s overwhelmed by the flood of cases. In a letter to Board Chairman Susan Grundmann, Rep. Rob Wittman and Rep. Frank Wolf say they are concerned about the delay. They worry DoD civilians are being singled out. Both say they’re not urging any particular outcome in the cases. They just want the MSPB to get on with deciding them. (GovExec)
  • One small agency has a full slate of confirmed members for the first time in a decade. Four new members of the National Labor Relations Board have taken the oath of office. They join Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, who was recently confirmed for an additional five-year term. The Senate approved all of them last month after President Barack Obama replaced two candidates. Republicans had objected to those nominees. (National Labor Relations Board)
  • He might be on vacation, but President Barack Obama is rolling out his revised national security policy piece by piece. The latest directive was issued from Martha’s Vinyard. It directs the national intelligence director to form a panel of outside experts to review government intelligence and communications technologies. The panel is one of four recommendations from Obama after details of NSA surveillance programs were leaked. The president wants to reform the USA Patriot Act and add another layer of oversight to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He also wants the Justice Department to make public its rationale for collecting data. (Associated Press)
  • Federal tax revenues are up sharply and the deficit is shrinking. New figures from the Treasury Department show that, through July, the government took in nearly $2.3 trillion. That 10-month total is higher than the last high point, reached in 2007. It’s 14 percent more than the same period last year. Plus, thanks to sequestration, spending is down a bit. That means the deficit so far in this fiscal year stands at $600 billion, down from $1 trillion at the same time last year. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates the government will hit the debt ceiling sometime between mid-October and mid-November. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Social Security Administration says it is making payments to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act. In a statement, acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin says the agency is processing some retirement spouse claims now. It is also developing more policy and processing instructions. She urges the public to be patient as the agency tries to get the policy right. Social Security is working with the Justice Department, which has taken the lead role in implementing the DOMA decision. (Social Security Administration)
  • Analysts said the BlackBerry 10 would make or break the company. Now, faced with lagging sales of its latest smartphone, BlackBerry is considering selling itself. Its board has formed a special committee to explore “strategic alternatives.” It will also look at joint ventures and partnerships. Once known as “Crack Berries,” BlackBerries have lost ground to iPhones and Android-based devices. But just last week, the Defense Information Systems Agency said it would deploy the BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 to support the new smartphones on Defense Department networks. (Associated Press)
  • The Defense Department wants to speed up the approval process for smart phones and tablets. The new goal is to get devices approved for use on DoD networks within 30 days, Federal Times reports. Right now, it takes so long that in some cases, by the time approval comes, the device is no longer being made. Jennifer Carter is the component acquisition executive at the Defense Information Systems Agency. She says that by working with vendors early on, DISA can verify the right security features are in place before devices hit the market. The same process will apply to software apps. Carter says DISA will issue a request for information in the fall for a contract to provide personal productivity mobile apps. (Federal Times)
  • The National Park Service is running out of time to finish removing an inscription from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The agency says it may have to stop work before the Aug. 28 event and resume afterwards. Or it could use its own employees to fix a problem created by the contract workers. They accidentally stained the memorial Friday. The main contractor doesn’t have insurance to complete the sandblasting with steel pellets, which is how it was created. The workers had been removing an inaccurate quote from the side of the statue. (Associated Press)
  • A former Library of Congress employee accused of posting fake sex ads on Craigslist has pleaded guilty to stalking and identification fraud. Federal prosecutors say Kenneth Edward Kuban used a government computer at the library to post more than 100 ads. In them, he posed as his ex-girlfriend and directed men to her home with the promise of sex. Kuban entered his plea yesterday at U.S. District Court in Charlottesville. He also pleaded guilty to violating a protective order. Kuban could get up to 15 years in prison when sentenced in November. (Associated Press)
  • The Air Force Academy has its first female leader. Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson became superintendent in a ceremony yesterday. Johnson has long ties to the school. She is a graduate and former professor. She was the academy’s first female cadet wing commander and first female Rhodes scholar. Johnson downplayed her achievements at the ceremony. She says the nation is willing to give everyone a chance. Johnson’s most recent assignment was as NATO’s deputy chief of staff for operations and intelligence. (Associated Press)
  • A fight is brewing over the government’s plan to sell Plum Island. That’s the site of a federal animal disease research lab. Congress voted years ago to move the work to another lab at the University of Kansas. In the latest salvo, the General Services Administration released an environmental impact statement which recommended proceeding with the sale. But last month, representatives from New York and Connecticut introduced legislation to stop it. They want the lab to stay put. Environmental groups want the island to stay in federal hands and become a nature preserve. The 843-acre island is located off Long Island. (Yahoo! News)