Tuesday federal headlines – August 20, 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 Office of Management and Budget is cutting its furlough days by two. Instead of 10, employees will have just eight unpaid days off. A spokesman confirmed that OMB joins nearly every other agency in reducing the number of furlough days it originally forecast, GovExec reports. White House staff members have already taken six of the eight days. Furloughs have hit agencies more gently than they expected when sequestration budget cuts began earlier in the fiscal year. A few agencies have canceled them. (GovExec)
  • He’s not quite standing on one leg. But President Barack Obama says he’s impatient with his financial regulatory staff. The president tells eight agency heads to giddyup and finish the regulations required by the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill. It was enacted in 2010. So far regulators have written nearly 11,000 pages of regulations. But that’s less then 40 percent of the job. Analysis by the law firm Davis Polk and Wardwell shows agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, have missed 60 percent of their deadlines. (Associated Press)
  • There’s a new resident at the White House. She’s black, furry, hypo-allergenic and named Sunny. The Obamas have adopted the one-year-old Portuguese Water Dog. First Lady Michelle Obama has publicly fretted that First Dog Bo didn’t have enough dog interaction. She resorted to hosting doggie play dates. The White House has posted photos of Bo and Sunny on its website. Bo has white paws. Sunny sports a pink bandanna. (The White House)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says he plans to visit China next year. He cited a desire to capitalize on what he called an improving trend in U.S.-China relations. But his Pentagon meeting yesterday with his Chinese counterpart wasn’t all moonlight and roses. Bejing has expressed wariness at the Obama administration’s military strategy of shifting resources away from the Atlantic and adding them to the Pacific rim. Chinese Gen. Chang Wanquan warned against fantasizing that China will give up its claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea. That’s been a point of contention with the United States. Still, both military leaders say they see the possibility of joint exercises and other ways to cooperate. (Associated Press)
  • Secretary of State John Kerry is welcoming back to the State Department four supervisors who were blamed for lax security in Benghazi. The four had been on paid administrative leave for eight months. The Daily Beast reports Kerry determined they did not deserve formal disciplinary action. Three of the four work in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Their absence has reported cause chaos in the bureau. Four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya died in the attack on Benghazi last fall. (The Daily Beast)
  • Government auditors say not so fast on one of the Postal Service’s key ideas for trimming its budget. The Government Accountability Office looked at the Postal Service’s proposal to withdraw from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan. Auditors say the Postal Service would save a lot of money, primarily because retirees would draw on Medicare. That raises red flags. GAO says Medicare is already fiscally unsustainable. On the flip side, it says most Postal employees would pay the same or less in insurance premiums. And it says the change would affect health care options for relatively few federal employees at other agencies. (Government Accountability Office)
  • Cybersecurity experts generally agree that Apple’s iOS is the most secure of the competing mobile operating systems. But it’s not perfect. Information Week reports, five computer security researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have demonstrated a weakness. They’ve been able to write malicious apps they say can get past Apple’s rigorous review process. The researchers call their creation a Jekyll app. It carries concealed code that exploits flaws Apple may not be aware of. A Jekyll app might even create new logic paths for malware that hackers can exploit later. The Georgia Tech researchers make several, highly technical recommendations for Apple. (Information Week)
  • A European Union working group on data privacy is questioning whether U.S. Cyber intelligence operations violate European or international laws. In a letter to European Commission leaders, the working group demands answers about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program. It wants to know what information NSA collects about people who are not Americans and what privacy safeguards the agency applies. It also wants to know whether the NSA is collecting personal data on European territory. (European Commission)
  • Army leaders have told a task force to find ways to cut headquarters expenses by a quarter and reduce other critical areas. Defense News got a memo signed by Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Secretary John McHugh. In it, they say, make no mistake; the money is gone and cuts are coming. They are directing the task force to develop what they call “bold” recommendations by Sept. 11. In addition to cuts to headquarters, the panel will look at cuts in force structure, readiness, the acquisition work force, facilities and cyber capabilities. (Defense News)
  • A documentary producer is suing the government for military records connected with the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800. Thomas Stalcup says he filed the lawsuits after receiving inadequate responses from the defense agencies to his open-records requests. He wants details from the Missile Defense Agency, the Naval Special Warfare Command and the Navy SEALs, which helped in the recovery effort. The National Transportation Safety Board says faulty wiring caused the plane to crash above New York. Stalcup suspects the plane was downed by a missile. He has asked the Board to reopen its four-year-long investigation. (Associated Press)
  • It beamed down shocking images of Hurricane Katrina. It amazed with pictures of a blizzard that buried the central United States. And now, a workhorse weather satellite faces retirement, 10 years after its launch. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it’s shutting down the bird known as GOES-12. GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. The machine has passed its operational life expectancy. Now NOAA technicians will boost it into a safer orbit. They’ll jettison any remaining fuel, disable its batteries and turn off its transmitters. (NOAA)